For all the efforts put in by well-wishers of every hue, including the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Bar Council of India, besides a clutch of retired judges, the fundamental issues that led four senior “rebel” judges of the nation’s highest court to go public last Friday are yet to be resolved.
Attorney-general K.K. Venugopal’s publicly expressed optimism has had to be equally publicly withdrawn. The mere fact of meetings that various groups and individuals held with Chief Justice Dipak Misra seems to have been the source of optimism. It is now becoming evident that the CJI has not been on the same page as his various interlocutors. To that extent, the brief meeting over tea between the CJI and the four “rebels” cannot be said to be imbued with much meaning.
How the imbroglio will be resolved is at present a matter of speculation, though it has been suggested that a positive direction appears to be emerging. Perhaps a sign of this is that the Supreme Court has deferred the hearing of the Judge B.H. Loya suspicious death case by a week, which the CJI had marked to Justice Arun Mishra, a step which acted as a trigger for the four senior judges to go public with the suggestion that all was not well with the administrative functioning of the court.
The “rebels” were concerned that the SC had entertained a PIL in the Loya matter when the Bombay high court was already processing the case. Perhaps the CJI will find a way out and let the Bombay high court deal with the matter eventually. This could be done with the SC bench ordering that the issue be dealt with in Mumbai, to begin with.
It’s a matter of curiosity that the Constitution Bench named by the CJI to deal with a clutch of high-profile and socially and politically sensitive cases does not include a single senior judge who spoke out. The sooner this anomaly is disposed of the better for the health of the nation’s judicial system.
The CJI would do well to be mindful of this aspect. He bears the heaviest responsibility in the present scenario in restoring the dignity of the highest court of the land, and by extension of public confidence in the fairness of our justice system. When justice is seen to be fair-minded and even-handed in respect of any possible encroachment on the judicial sphere by the executive, the Supreme Court’s honour will be deemed to be fully restored.
The impression has erroneously gone around that the CJI has bypassed the “senior” judges in favour of “junior” judges in sensitive cases. The real point is that certain judges have been favoured in this regard to obtain specific outcomes. This impression needs to be firmly dispelled....