NEW DELHI: IT’S unlikely to be business as usual in the Supreme Court from Monday. Friday’s unprecedented press conference by four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court ought to impact the Supreme Court collegium as well as the functioning of the apex court, believe legal luminaries. However, some legal experts are of the view that judges of the top court can rise to the occasion by resolving their differences through dialogue.
Senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam, former Additional Solicitor General A S Chandiok and former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee said that Friday’s allegations against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra by the four judges—Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph—will severely hit the credibility of the Supreme Court and the country’s justice delivery system.
Chandiok called the events extremely damaging for the country’s judiciary. He said the collegium, which comprises CJI and the four judges, won’t be able to function now. “This press meet should not have happened. Today’s events have put India’s justice system in extremely poor light. The four judges should have used other means to resolve the issues. Now these judges won’t be able to see eye to eye. It will certainly impact functioning of the Supreme Court,” Chandiok said.
Nikam termed it a black day for the judiciary and said, “Today’s press conference would cause a bad precedent. From now on every common man could look at all judicial order with suspicion. Every judgment will be questioned.”
Senior advocate Indira Jaising added that “dialogue, deliberation and consensus” was the only way out to emerge “harmoniously” from the situation. She maintained that the judges’ press conference was necessary, but added that differences among the collegium judges are not bigger than the institution. “It is our duty to make sure that the situation remains same from Monday,” she said.
Jurists and legal luminaries appeared divided over the “bold” press conference, but they agreed that it was extraordinary and unsettling. Attorney General K K Venugopal and former Chief Justice of India K G Balakarishnan said the “public outburst” by the four judges should have been avoided. Former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha, senior advocates KTS Tulsi, former apex court judge P B Sawant and retired Delhi High Court Judge Justice Mukul Mudgal said the four must have been compelled to come before the media.
“It is quite shocking. There must have been compelling reasons for the senior-most judges to have adopted this course of action. I am sure they exhausted all other remedies. One could see pain on their faces while they were speaking,” Tulsi said.
Jaising and lawyer Prashant Bhushan congratulated the four judges for taking the “courageous” step. On the other hand, retired judge of Delhi High Court Justice R S Sodhi and Justice Balakrishnan demanded impeachment of the four. “It is appalling. How can you administer the Supreme Court by a press conference? All four judges should be impeached. This trade unionism is wrong,” Justice Sodhi said.
Justice Venugopal said the judges of the apex court would now have to act in “statesmanship” to ensure complete harmony. Venugopal expressed hope that all judges, including the CJI, would rise to the occasion and “wholly neutralise” the “divisiveness”.