'We were left with no choice,' 4 Supreme Court judges turn to the press in a final bid to be heard
Let's look at the reasons behind today's revolt by the judges, and how it can impact India's democracy
But that day has arrived and one the bones of contention is assignment of Judge Loya case to J. Arun Mishra's bench. Judge Loya's death has been linked to the sitting president of BJP, Amit Shah, that is the incumbent ruling party in India. In consequence it also links to the sitting Indian Prime Minister who was accused of abetting the cold-blooded murder of over 1000 Muslims in the streets of Gujarat, when he was the chief minister of the state. Amit Shah was the home minister of Gujarat, in-charge of internal-security working directly for Narendra Modi. The inquiry did not indict Mr. Modi but countries like to the United States did not give Mr. Modi a US visa because of the accusations.
Background of dissent against CJI Mishra
The stunning "rebellion" against the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, by the four judges who rank just after him, the case of Mumbai judge BH Loya may have been the tipping point. Two petitions asking for an investigation into the judge's death were assigned to a bench that the judges reportedly disapproved of. This morning, the four judges reportedly voiced their protest before chief Justice Misra. Judge Loya's family has alleged that his death in 2014 was linked to the only case he was handling at the time - the CBI's case of murder against BJP president Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter. "It is a serious matter," the Supreme Court said today, hearing a journalist's request for an independent inquiry into the death. (www.ndtv.com)
Here are top five facts on the Judge Loya case
- Medical records show Judge Loya died of a cardiac arrest. Judge Loya's family alleges that days before his death, he was offered Rs. 100 crores as a bribe to rule in favour of the BJP chief.
- About two weeks after Judge Loya died, the judge who replaced him in the Sohrabuddin case let off Amit Shah and ruled out a trial.
- The family's doubts have been rubbished by officials and doctors present during Judge Loya's last few hours alive. A judge who was with him, Justice Bhushan Gavai, said there was no sign of any cover-up or mystery about how he died.
- Justice Gavai countered the family's claim that Judge Loya was transferred to the hospital in an autorickshaw and without appropriate supervision. The judge was driven to a local hospital with a court official and a judge from Mumbai, he told NDTV.
- The CBI had alleged that Amit Shah, as Home Minister of Gujarat, ordered the extra-judicial killings of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, a petty criminal in Gujarat, his wife, and their friend who was a witness to Sheikh's killing in 2005. (www.ndtv.com)
The Supreme court today mounted a virtual revolt against the chief justice, listing a litany of problems that they said are afflicting the country's highest court and warned they could destroy Indian democracy. The unprecedented move at a joint news conference by the four judges including Justice J Chelameswar, the second senior judge after the Chief Justice of India, left the judiciary and observers stunned, leaving uncertain how this open dissension in the hallowed institution would be resolved. (thehindubusinessline.com)
"...We were left with no choice except to communicate it to the nation that please take care of the institution...Don't want people to say 20 years later that we did not take care of the institution," said justice Chelameswar. (hindustantimes.com)
"Unless this institution is preserved, democracy will not survive in this country," Justice Chelameswar said, adding that it was "extremly painful" to hold the press conference in such a manner. The press conference was held at Chelameswar's residence. He 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," he said. (thehindubusinessline.com)
Corruption charges against senior judiciary
The background to this fiasco is Prashant Bhushan's accusation of corruption by the judiciary. And Judge Chelameswar agreed to hear the case and refer it to the bench. But after that all hell broke lose.
Whatever may have been the merits of justice Chelameswar choosing to hear the case and referring it to a Constitution bench, it was incumbent upon Misra's bench to have not permitted advocates to disparage him thus in open court and show such open disrespect to their colleagues. (qz.com)
While the order cites case-law and precedent to assert his powers as a master of the rolls, it does not, even in passing, address the argument made by Prashant bhushan and the petitioners that Misra, as chief justice of India, should have recused from hearing this case. (qz.com)
They, including some executive members of the supreme court Bar Association, behaved in a despicable manner—all in the defence of a judge trying desperately to hold on to his authority in the face of serious questions against his integrity. (qz.com)
The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms led by Prashant Bhushan and, later, Kamini Jaiswal, filed a petition asking for a supreme court-monitored supervision of this ongoing investigation into possible judicial corruption. (qz.com)
The spat began last year over appointments
According to a Times of India report, "the bitter judiciary-government spat over judicial appointments turned more vitriolic with chief justice of India TS Thakur and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad going public on in their sharp disagreements on who is responsible for the delay" in filling the vacancies. (firstpost.com)
But the question is: if the executive refuses to reconsider the recommendation of the SC with regards to the 43 names — just as the Supreme Court, earlier, declined the appeal of the executive to reconsider the same cases — there is going to be a major stalemate that will worsen the given situation. (firstpost.com)
Political corruption and Judicial corruption
The last few years have seen a spate of judicial activism when judges have clamped down on political corruption. But judicial corruption has been a challenge as well. A democracy will not find itself safe if the judiciary comes under the cloud of corruption.
India has the special status where the executive, press and judiciary have all been engulfed in corruption charges. India's journalists have been caught on-camera asking for bribes from corporations in return for scuttling stories. So truly the democracy is at risk and these judges may be the last hope for trying to stop the deterioration of the overall democracy.
If the judicial system is compromised, India will stand at risk of a suspended democracy. But the population of India is still hungry and desirous of a democracy and they may not let this mockery sustain.