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Supreme Court judges' rebellion updates: No party should take undue advantage of row, says BCI

Divisions in the Supreme Court burst out in the open on Friday when four senior most judges took an unprecedented step of addressing the media to accuse Chief Justice Dipak Misra of breaching rules

FP Staff January 13, 2018 21:05:52 IST
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Supreme Court judges' rebellion updates: No party should take undue advantage of row, says BCI

Highlights

11:03 (ist)

Main arguments before the court

Livelaw reported that the petitioners argue that details for Aadhaar are collected by private contractors and NGOs hired by UIDAI without any safeguard. This makes them prone to misuse. They claimed that empirical research shows that the biometric identification denoted for UID, namely the the iris scan and fingerprint identification, is faulty and is could be abused.

10:50 (ist)

#AadharMythBuster being used on Twitter to promote Aadhaar

Union ministers including Ravi Shankar Prasad and Rajyavardhan Rathore are using #AadharMythBuster to extol the virtues of Aadhaar.

Some policy experts are not impressed with those efforts.

10:15 (ist)

Group of private companies bat for use of Aadhaar for eKYC and background verification process

According to an Economic Times report, a petition has been filed by the Digital Lenders Association of India (DLAI) which comprises startups such as CapitalFloat, LendingKart, ZestMoney, IndiaLends as well as early-stage investment firms and companies which provide authentication services and background verifications. These companies are particularly appealing to ensure advantages such as eKYC offered by Aadhaar help a lot in real-time verification of customers.

Legally speaking, the petition is being termed as an 'intervention application' which has yet to be accepted by the SC. There is no clarity on when it will be heard according to legal experts who have spoken to ET.

09:57 (ist)

'Aadhaar: Enabling a form of supersurveillance', argues Suhrith Parthasarathy

Suhrith Parthasarathy argues in The Hindu that the government will, no doubt, argue that Aadhaar can bring about many benefits. However any policy, howsoever poorly framed, will likely bring about certain gains. The question is ultimately one of proportionality and justice. Arguing that the government's aim is to create a seamless police state, which will chill our freedom and give the State rampant power he asks whether the Supreme Court will dare to stop this.

09:12 (ist)

'Aadhaar is an evolving endeavour and UIDAI responsive to public concerns', argues Nandan Nilekani

In an article in the Hindustan Times, Nandan Nilekani argues that the concern about the ‘linking’ of Aadhaar to various services are over-hyped and baseless.

He goes on to insist that we should "applaud the UIDAI for being responsive to the concerns of the public. We need to recognise that providing a unique, secure identification, with instant authentication anywhere, to 1.3 billion Indians is an evolving endeavour."

08:53 (ist)

Developments in Bofors case could affect Loya case

The Supreme Court made certain observations in the Bofors case regarding who can file a case in criminal matters, reported The Times of India. This could have an effect on the Loya case as all the PILs in the case have been filed by advocate associations or individuals who had no connection with the judge.

08:17 (ist)

RECAP: Judge Loya died due to 'heart attack', no cause for suspicion, says Nagpur Police

The Nagpur Police on Tuesday said that there was no cause for suspicion regarding the death of judge Loya and that he had indeed died of a heart attack.

"Nagpur Police undertook a thorough investigation in this case and his death was due to a heart attack", Shivaji Bodkhe, Joint Commissioner of Police, Nagpur told reporters. "The postmortem, as well as the forensic reports too, confirm the same. There was nothing unusual in the report," he said.

08:12 (ist)

RECAP: Prashant Bhushan files complaint against CJI Dipak Misra, requests five senior judges to conduct inquiry

Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Tuesday said he had filed a complaint against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in the medical college scam case and requested five senior most apex court judges, including the four rebel judges, to hold an in-house inquiry into the matter.

11:29 (ist)

The arguments in the petition

BR Lone's petition sought a probe saying there were several contradictions emerging in the matter, according to The Indian Express. Tehseen Poonawala, in his plea contended that circumstances of the death of the judge were “questionable, mysterious and contradicting”.

13:26 (ist)

Why drag Justice Loya case into this, asks BCI chief

"Why drag the Judge Loya case into this? As you can see, Judge Loya's family has said that they do not have any doubts on the matter," says BCI chief Manan Kumar Misra.

The family of Justice BH Loya on Sunday said the death of the special CBI judge, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh "fake encounter" case, was being politicised and urged all parties to refrain from taking advantage of the situation.

Justice Loya’s son, Anuj, said he did not have any doubts about the way his father died three years ago. "I had an emotional turmoil, hence I had suspicions about his death. But now we don't have any doubts about the way he died," he told reporters at a press conference.

12:58 (ist)

RECAP: Absolute powers of Chief Justice of India need to be checked, says SC lawyer

Advocate Gautam Bhatia, in a series of tweets, said on Friday that in the last 20 years, the office of the Chief Justice of India has received a lot of power without having any system of accountability to keep it in check.


Bhatia argued that two features in the Indian legal system — "the splitting up of the Supreme Court into multiple different benches, and the massive backlog of cases" — make these powers problematic. "In this context, the Chief Justice's powers to assign cases to benches and to decide when a case is to be heard become very significant," he said in one tweet.

"The Chief Justice's administrative power effectively transform itself into a power to significantly influence the outcomes of cases (sic)," Bhatia further said.

12:43 (ist)

RECAP: Yashwant Sinha lauds rebel SC judges, says Cabinet ministers should also speak up without fear

Sinha said "if four senior most Supreme Court judges say democracy is under threat, we have to take their words very seriously""

"Every citizen who feels for democracy should speak up. I will ask party (BJP) leaders and senior cabinet ministers to speak up. I will appeal to them to get rid of their fears and speak up," he said.

Sinha, however, insisted that it was for the apex court to sort out the crisis after the four senior judges virtually revolted against the country's chief justice on Friday, raising questions on "selective" case allocation and certain judicial orders.

12:35 (ist)

Four former retired justices write open letter

An open letter by former apex court judge PB Sawant, ex-chief justice of Delhi High Court AP Shah, former Madras High Court judge K Chandru and ex-Bombay High Court judge H Suresh was given to the media. It has also gone viral on social media.

Justice Shah confirmed having written an open letter along with the other retired judges and told PTI, "We have written the open letter which the other judges named in the letter have also consented to."

He said that the view expressed by the retired judges is "quite similar to the views of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) that till this crisis is resolved, the important matters should be listed before a five-judge Constitution bench of senior judges".

10:53 (ist)

Bobde emerging as a peacekeeper, says report

According to a News18 report, Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde is brokering peace between Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on one side and four other senior-most judges – Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph – on the other.

10:22 (ist)

RECAP: Congress claims 'Democracy is in danger'

The Congress said "democracy is in danger" after four senior-most Supreme Court judges came out in the open to say that the situation in the apex court was "not in order".

"We are very concerned to hear 4 judges of the Supreme Court expressed concerns about the functioning of the Supreme Court. #DemocracyInDanger," the Congress' official Twitter handle said.

10:14 (ist)

All you need to know about controversial RP Luthra case

The RP Luthra case is at the centre of the whole fiasco. To convey the "less than desirable" things taking place inside the apex court, the four justices referred to a letter that they had written to the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The letter mentions an order passed in the case RP Luthra vs Union Of India Ministry Of Law And Another respondents passed on 27 October. What does the order in the RP Luthra case say that made the four justices speak publicly against the CJI?

Based on the letter to the CJI, the four justices made public on Friday, it seems clear that the main point of contention at present is the delay in implementing the Memorandum of Procedure towards the appointment of judges in India. "...there should be no further delay in finalisation of MOP in larger public interest," the SC order in the Luthra case had said and was reiterated by the four judges as well in their letter to the CJI.

10:00 (ist)

Is Caste an issue in Supreme Court?

Of frequent reference is also the case of caste. It is argued that the judiciary, populated by as much as 95 percent of its constituency by individuals of the Brahmin caste, is Brahmanical. This criticism resurfaced in the defiance and subsequent punishment of Justice CS Karnan whose persecution, it is said, was about his caste. 

Read full report here. 

09:24 (ist)

'Super sensitive' cases handled by junior judges in past

According to The Times of India, there have been fifteen 'super sensitive' cases which have been handled by junior judges and not the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. These cases include Bofors, Rajiv Gandhi assassination, LK Advani's trial in Babri masjid demolition, Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter, Best Bakery and the case that changed how BCCI, reported the publication. 

09:19 (ist)

The Supreme Court crisis was waiting to happen

For those who have access to portals of the Supreme Court, the spectacle of four of its senior most judges raising the banner of revolt against their Chief Justice did not come as a surprise, but rather a conspiracy to alter the course of history.

“It was brewing for some time” is the general refrain if you talk to anyone conversant with what is going on. Letters were being secretly written to judges and circulating, pointing out skeletons in cupboards hidden from public view. Insinuation and innuendo over the formation of benches on certain issues of critical economic and political importance were the order of the day.

And there were all indications that there was something stinking in the corridors of the Supreme Court, to borrow a phrase from Justice Markandey Katju (he was referring to the Allahabad High Court). All this was exposed in a jiffy as the judges pointed fingers at CJI’s alleged indiscretion in allocating cases to benches and his other administrative functioning.

Read the full analysis here. 

16:45 (ist)

Attorney General KK Venugopal hopes crisis will be 'settled' soon

Attorney General KK Venugopal expressed the hope that the crisis in the top judiciary following a revolt by four Supreme Court judges would be "settled".

"Let's hope everything works out very well. I am sure everything will be settled," he told reporters in New Delhi.

13:17 (ist)

'Holding presser for minor issue of roster is saddening': Bar Council of India chairman, Manan Mishra

According to ANI, chairman of Bar Council of India Manan Kumar Mishra criticised the four Supreme Court judges for holding a press conference on Friday. "Holding a press conference on a minor issue of roster is saddening," he said.

Mishra further added that Bar Council is set to have a meeting at 5 pm on Saturday and meet the four senior judges on Sunday. "We have a meeting at 5 pm today (Saturday). Tomorrow (Sunday) our delegation will meet those senior judges, Chief Justice of India and other judges and request them to not bring issues like these in front of public," he said. 

09:42 (ist)

Former ASG Vikas Singh says judges' press conference was not planned, should have said something 'substantial'

Speaking to ANIformer additional solicitor general of India and the Supreme Court Bar Association president Vikas Singh said, "If they had to come for a press conference, then they should have said something substantial. Just creating doubts in the minds of people will not serve the interest of the judiciary. This was not properly planned. They didn't say anything about Justice Loya."

18:52 (ist)

Explainer: What is a Supreme Court roster that the dissenting judges had objections to?

In the early years of its existence, the SC had only 7 judges and they would all hear matters together. But as the court expanded and its workload increased, the Supreme Court became an institution with multiple benches. 

The record of the allotment of cases to benches is called the roster. The CJI is the first amongst equals at the Supreme Court and his judgments carry no more weight than any other judge of the court. But the CJI does have more administrative powers, which includes control on the roster. This means it is up to the CJI to decide which set of judges hears which matters. 

A particular judge may have domain expertise in an area of law and therefore would be suitable for a particular matter while another judge may not. These decisions are often taken by the Chief Justice while assigning matters. While there is usually a system that is followed for most regular cases, when it comes to constituting special benches or assigning matters of constitutional import, the exercise of this power becomes as important as some of the decisions of the court itself.

13:52 (ist)

‘Chief Justice is only the first amongst the equals — nothing more or nothing less’

On Friday, Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph addressed the media to highlight their grievances about how cases are allocated in the Supreme Court. Read the full text of the letter issued by the four Supreme Court judges

12:40 (ist)

Earlier clashes between CJI Dipak Misra and the other judges

Bar and Bench had detailed the clash which took place between the CJI and Justice Chelameswar in November in Kamini Jaiswal's petition.

12:35 (ist)

Chief Justice has been the subject of criticism

Senior Advocate and former president of the SC Bar Association Dushyant Dave in The Indian Express has pointed at serious issues in the constitution of benches and the allocation of work to such benches by the Chief Justice.

LIVE NEWS and UPDATES

Jan 17, 2018 - 16:07 (IST)

Petitioners complete pre-act chronology: Day 1 of arguments over; hearing will resume tomorrow

Jan 17, 2018 - 15:59 (IST)

Meanwhile... Aadhaar tweets out 'myth busters' intermittently; claims banking, financial data not tracked via UIDAI

Jan 17, 2018 - 15:49 (IST)

Jan 17, 2018 - 15:47 (IST)

United Kingdom revoked it biometric database, petitioner tells SC

Jan 17, 2018 - 15:44 (IST)

Architecture that allows surveillance not permissible: Divan

Jan 17, 2018 - 15:31 (IST)

Justices AK Sikri and DY Chandrachud seek to know how is the Aadhaar biometrics system different from the biometrics for US Visa?

Jan 17, 2018 - 15:27 (IST)

Ensuring Aadhaar data is not misused not enough to grant it legality, petitioners argue in case

Justice Chandrachud asked that if the government ensures that Aadhaar data is used only for the purpose it is collected, will it address the concerns raised by the petitioners. To this the petitioner's lawyer replied that the design in itself is bad as it allows State domination. Shyam Divan further argued that the problem is not that whether the State is actually tracking its citizens or not but the fact that the Aadhaar makes it possible. 

Jan 17, 2018 - 15:13 (IST)

Aadhaar alters the relationship between the citizen and the State

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan today submitted in court that Aadhaar seems too alter the relationship between the citizen and the State, while diminishing the status of the citizen. All rights, a citizen could earlier freely assert have now been made part of a “compulsory barter”, averring, “The barter compels the citizen to give up his biometrics ‘voluntarily’, unless the number is seeded in databases of the service provider, the citizen is denied access to these most essential facilities. "Inalienable and natural rights are dependent on a compulsory exaction.”

As reported by Live and Law

Jan 17, 2018 - 15:05 (IST)

'People's Constitution is being sought to be converted into a State's Constitution'

Jan 17, 2018 - 14:54 (IST)

Aadhaar act cannot be used to deny basic amenities, rights or benefits, says petitioner's lawyer Shyam Divan 

A day after divisions in the Supreme Court burst out in the open on Friday when four senior most judges took an unprecedented step of addressing the media to accuse Chief Justice Dipak Misra of breaching rules in assigning cases to appropriate benches, Attorney-General KK Venugopal said the press conference held by four senior Supreme Court judges could impact public confidence in judiciary.

At a hurriedly called press conference at his residence, Justice J Chelameswar and three other colleagues said the Supreme Court administration was "not in order" and their efforts to persuade Justice Misra even this morning "with a specific request" failed, forcing them to "communicate with the nation" directly.

The four judges — Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Madan B Lokur besides Justice Chelameswar — released a letter they wrote to Justice Misra a couple of months ago, conceding that he was the master of roster but that was "not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues".

Supreme Court judges rebellion updates No party should take undue advantage of row says BCI

The press conference held by the four Supreme Court judges. PTI

Asked specifically if they were upset over reference of the matter seeking a probe into the suspicious death of Judge Loya, Justice Gogoi said: "Yes."

Judge Loya, who was hearing a case relating to the killing of gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh in an alleged fake shootout in which BJP chief Amit Shah was named an accused (later discharged), died of cardiac arrest in 2014. His family has raised doubts over the circumstances in which Judge Loya died and have sought an independent probe into it.

Pleas seeking probe came up for a hearing in the Supreme Court on Friday when the top court expressed concerns over it and said it was a "serious issue". It asked the Maharashtra government to produce all the documents related to the case before 15 January.

In a seven-page letter, the four judges said they were not mentioning details of the cases only to avoid embarrassing the institution because "such departures have already damaged the images of this institution to some extent".

The clash among the judges in the highest court also comes in the wake of a controversial order in November in which Justice Misra declared that the Chief Justice "is the master of the roster" having exclusive power to decide which case will go to which judge.

The CJI had given the order a day after a two-judge bench headed by Justice Chelameswar had passed an order that a five-judge bench of senior most judges in the apex court should be set up to consider an independent probe into a corruption case in which bribes were allegedly taken in the name of settling cases pending before Supreme Court judges.

Holding that the Chief Justice was only the first among equals, the four judges contended that there were well-settled and time-honoured conventions guiding the Chief Justice in dealing with the strength of the bench required or the composition thereof.

"A necessary corollary to the above mentioned principle is the members of any multi-numbered judicial body, including this court, would not arrogate to themselves the authority to deal with and pronounce upon matters which ought to be heard by appropriate benches, both composition-wise and strength-wise with due regard to the roster fixed," they wrote in the letter.

They said any departure from the two rules would not only lead to "unpleasant and undesirable consequences of creating doubt in the body politic about the integrity of the institution" but would create "chaos".

The four judges also touched upon another controversial issue, the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) on appointment of judges over which the Supreme Court had locked horns with the government.

The government, the letter said, had not responded to the communication and "in view of this silence it must be taken that the MoP has been accepted by the government on the basis of the order of this court".

Justice Chelameswar told the media that they were "convinced that unless this institution is protected and maintains its requirements, democracy will not survive in the country or any country... The hallmark of a democracy is independent and impartial judges."

"Since all our efforts failed... Even this (Friday) morning, on a particular issue, we went and met the Chief Justice with a specific request. Unfortunately we could not convince him that we were right."

Justice Gogoi said they were "discharging debt to the nation that has got us here".

The government appeared to distance itself from the controversy, saying the judges should sort the issue themselves.

Minister of State for Law PP Chaudhary said: "Our judiciary is one of the known, recognised judiciaries in the world. It is an indepenedent judiciary. At this stage I think no agency is required to intervene or interfere. The Chief Justice and other members should sit together and resolve. There is no question of panic."

The Supreme Court split had an immediate political fallout, with CPI leader D Raja saying after meeting Justice Chelameswar that Parliament will have to device methods to sort out problems like this in the top judiciary.

Two judges, Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageshwar Rao, are understood to have called on Justice Chelameswar.

With inputs from IANS

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