Camps of courts
Covering the apex court has never been this exciting! Not even when major verdicts were slated. The CJI and GoI were caught off-guard. Intimation of the landmark press conference by judges had gone out only to a handful of ‘seniors’ (the term has acquired new weight!) covering the Supreme Court. But thanks to Whatsapp, the news spread like wildfire, and even non-journalists, like 78-year-old ace lawyer Indira Jaising, landed up at the presser to ask questions.
The confrontation or rebellion by ‘the Justice League’, as TV called the Lordships, was in the making for some time now, what with the big four not even on talking terms with the CJI. The weekly lunches and dinner between the top court’s judges had stopped for the last two months.
The split in the supreme judiciary is wide open. On one side are the CJI, Dipak Misra, and those being referred to, perhaps in an imprecise importation from politics, as his ‘campwallahs’—Justices Arun Mishra, D Y Chandrachud, A M Khanwilkar, N V Ramana and U U Lalit, relatively junior in the pecking order; and on the other the most senior Justices, Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan Lokur. Since the CJI could not quite stop the press, the media is rather kicked at the thought that the dreaded ‘contempt of court’ would now be a thing of the past. Maybe they shouldn’t arrive at too quick a verdict on that.
Brothers Poonwallah, derisively called self-anointed Congresswallahs with a twist or two, have a knack for inserting themselves in the thick of things. If Shahzad Poonawallah took on Rahul Gandhi prior to his elevation as GOP chief, as if he could be the ideal alternative had the Congress been less dynasty-obsessed, his ‘estranged’ bro Tehseen Poonawallah is now the villain of another piece.
His PIL on Justice Loya’s death, directly filed in the SC even while the Bombay Lawyer Association’s PIL was legitimately filed and listed in the High Court there, was a crucial development—its referral to a particular court by the CJI was seen as the last straw by the Big Four. Tehseen added spice by claiming his senior counsel was pressured to withdraw the case. Unfortunately for him, the focus shifted to the big guns of the legal fraternity and the Bar Council. A lonely Tehseen was found loitering in the SC in the hope of giving a byte. But, found no takers!
125 at one go!
Smriti Irani is known for her strong-arm tactics, as the I&B Ministry is learning it the hard way. After having put the bureaucrats in their place, she has turned her attention to the Indian Information Service officials. No less than 125 of them have been shunted out of Delhi to various state capitals and second-tier cities such as Madurai, apparently to improve coverage of Central Government ‘welfare’ schemes in the states. Such is her clout that even the top IIS officials could not get relief by reaching out to their benefactors, V-P Venkaiah Naidu, FM Arun Jaitley, or even BJP chief Amit Shah. Those who could save their seats in Delhi thanked their stars. It seems it could be more to do with their minority status or caste than their weighty contacts.
It does not take much to start the rumour mills in Luytens’ Delhi. The latest is about a December 2018 poll. Call it an advanced Lok Sabha election or part of PM Modi’s pet project—simultaneous polls. However, the idea may be a little iffy—especially after the hard-fought win or rather electoral escape in Gujarat. Nor are the Karnataka polls going to be deferred after politics there has been brought to a boil. But Amit Shah had a longish meeting with Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat, apparently on the schedule for the temple construction. The Sangh, it seems, wants at least ‘mandir nirman’ to begin by December 2018. Going by that, May 2019 seems a safe bet for the LS polls.
The author is Political Editor, TNIE. Email: santwana@