Supreme Court judges' rebellion: This is not the first time fissures have appeared in the judiciary

In an unprecedented turn of events, four judges of the Supreme Court conducted a press briefing where they raised questions of propriety against the functioning of the apex court.

The second senior judge after the Chief Justice of India, Justice J Chelameswar, was accompanied by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice MB Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph at the briefing. The judges said that the situation in the top court was "not in order" and many "less than desirable" things have taken place.

Justice Chelameswar said all the four judges "failed to persuade CJI that certain things are not in order and therefore you should take remedial measures. Unfortunately our efforts failed. And all four of us are convinced that democracy is at stake and many things have happened in recent past." Asked what these issues were, he said they included the "allocation of cases by CJI".

When asked by the media if the issue was about the case involving the death of CBI Judge BH Loya, Justice Gogoi said, "yes."

However, this was hardly the first time that fissures have appeared between the Chief Justice and the other judges.

Kamini Jaiswal case

In November 2017, the court was involved in heated drama when it overturned the order passed by a two-judge bench headed by Justice Chelameswar to set up a larger bench to hear a plea for an SIT probe into graft allegations involving a retired Orissa High Court judge.

After a 90-minute hearing, the Constitution bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice RK Agrawal, Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Amitava Roy and Justice AM Khanwilkar said that the CJI was the "master of rolls" and he alone can assign cases to different benches and decide composition of benches.

 Supreme Court judges rebellion: This is not the first time fissures have appeared in the judiciary

File image of Supreme Court. AP

The order had come a day after the two-judge bench headed by Justice Chelameswar ordered the setting up of a five-judge constitution bench to hear a corruption case involving former Orissa High Court judge, IM Quddusi. Quddusi, who was the High Court judge between 2004 and 2010, is alleged to have helped a private medical college to admit students to MBBS courses despite the Supreme Court barring the institutes from doing so.

A petition filed by Supreme Court advocate Kamini Jaiswal had sought an investigation into the case by a court-monitored SIT. The petition was taken up for hearing by the bench headed by Justice Chelameswar.

The five-judge bench eventually rejected Jaiswal's plea seeking the special probe, calling it 'contemptuous' and 'derogatory'.

Justice Jayant Patel's resignation

Going further back to September 2017, the senior-most judge of the Karnataka High Court, Jayant Patel, resigned without clearly stating the reasons for quitting. While Patel did not cite any particular reason for his resignation, reports suggest that he was unhappy about not being made the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court and also about his transfer to Allahabad. In an interview to Bar and Bench, Patel said that he wants to be relieved from the institution.

The ubiquitous theory was that Patel was not keen on going to Allahabad on a transfer. In Karnataka High Court, he was due for elevation as Chief Justice or Acting Chief Justice after incumbent SN Mukherjee’s retirement on 9 October but instead, he got transferred to Allahabad High Court.

This wasn't the first time that Patel had been transferred just before he was due for a promotion. Earlier too, the Gujarat High Court Bar had raised the issue of non-appointment of Patel as Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court and had written a letter to the collegium regarding vacancies in high courts. This was when he was transferred as a judge in the Karnataka High Court after being an acting Chief Justice.

It is instructive to note here that Patel was the judge who had ordered a CBI probe in the fake encounter case of Ishrat Jahan, while he was posted at the Gujarat High Court.

Following the resignation, the Gujarat High Court Advocates' Association had gone on a strike and filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging Patel's transfer just before his elevation as the chief justice of Karnataka High Court, The Times of India had reported.

The Karnataka State Bar Council (KSBC) and the Advocates Association of Bengaluru also condemned Patel's transfer. Legal circles had expected Patel to be elevated to the Supreme Court if he was not elevated as the chief justice because the apex court has no representation from Gujarat since Justice AR Dave demitted office, according to The Economic Times.

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With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 12, 2018 15:23:05 IST