Turmoil in SC: Time to think in the spirit of utmost deference to duty
The four judges calling an unprecedented press conference after two months to hand over a copy of the letter to the media only indicates that they are still not satisfied with the working of the court under the current dispensation.Updated: Jan 13, 2018 08:20 IST
In the Mahabharata, when Draupadi was gambled away by Yudhishthira, she asked a question: “I belonged equally to all five of them, how could Yudhishthira alone lose me?”
This question sprang to my mind as I watched four of the Pancha-Pandavas of the collegium stand up against the perceived dishonour of the institution. At times like this, young Abhimanyus and Parikshits of the judicial family have to wonder whether there is something at all that they can contribute to the cause of Dharma. The four judges have told the country in no uncertain terms that things are not right within the judicial fortress. From the press conference held by the judges, it appears two months ago, these very judges had written to the Chief Justice complaining about “certain judicial orders passed by this court which has adversely affected the overall functioning of the justice delivery system and the independence of the high courts besides affecting the administrative functioning of the offices of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India”.
The letter also points to an attempt on October 27, 2017, by a two-judge bench to re-look the working of the verdict in the NJAC case. This dealt with appointments to the higher judiciary. That case, however, was closed on November 8, 2017, by a three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice.
The four judges calling an unprecedented press conference after two months to hand over a copy of the letter to the media only indicates that they are still not satisfied with the working of the court under the current dispensation.
The judges have wisely refrained from setting out all the details of what they have perceived to have gone wrong in the previous months.
One can now presume that the dissatisfaction persists to an extent that they feel compelled to bring out their misgivings into full public view.
Justice Chelameswar at the press conference said, “All four of us are convinced that unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country, or any country.”
Justice Gogoi, who is expected to be the next Chief Justice of India, said that the conference was organised as “a discharge of debt to the nation”.
This is a time to think institutionally and in the spirit of utmost deference to duty, that all men of law are called upon to render to the cause of administration of justice. The first call must be to ensure that the administration of justice is not perceived to be dependent upon the mere allocation of the roster of cases by the Chief Justice.
Secondly, it must be hereafter seen to that no litigant, how high so ever, can be perceived to have any role in the inner workings of the judicial process.
Thirdly, it must be ensured that the institution of the Supreme Court must not be seen as subordinate to the tastes, predilections and fashions of the Chief Justice of the day. Finally, it must be ensured that the higher judiciary is seen as an integrated family, united against any external attempt to influence it or interfere with its functioning.
As someone who has spent almost his entire working life in the Supreme Court and who is ever grateful for the recognition and honour, that working in this institution has brought me, I am loathe to say anything that will undermine the institution. It is times of crisis that determine character. The press conference should not be seen as a revolt or a challenge to authority. It must be seen as a desperate cry to set right a revered institution.
It is hoped that all the five Pandavas sit together in a spirit of re-dedication to national service. One cannot let the cause of lady justice, be subject once again, to a casual roll of the dice.
(Sanjay Hegde is a Supreme Court lawyer)
First Published: Jan 13, 2018 08:05 IST