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Experts suggest government should stay out of Supreme Court crisis

Constitutional experts have suggested that the government should adopt a ‘hands off’ approach to the current crisis roiling India’s top judiciary.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2018 13:03 IST
Jatin Gandhi
Jatin Gandhi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Crisis in judiciary,Supreme Court,CJI
India top judiciary was shaken last week when four top judges of the Supreme Court revolted against the Chief Justice of India.(HT PHOTO)

The government should stay aloof and maintain a studied silence on the current crisis involving the judiciary, constitution experts have said.

While at least three high-ranking law ministry officials confirmed that the government did not intend to “interfere or intervene” in either the standoff between top judges or fresh allegations against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, experts warned doing anything more would be a transgression.

“The Constitution is very clear on the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary. Even Parliament cannot intervene or discuss the conduct of judges,” former Rajya Sabha secretary general Yogendra Narain said. “The government is doing a wise thing by staying aloof.”

Narain said that the judiciary should be given reasonable time to resolve what is an internal matter.

Subhash C Kashyap, author of several books on the Constitution and parliamentary democracy, warned that the government should not interfere in the matter nor political parties jump in to “politicise” the issue.

“The Constitution lays down a clear demarcation of the responsibilities. The judiciary exceeds its jurisdiction quite often and Parliament does not always perform its role but they cannot step into each other’s territory,” he said.

Kashyap said the judiciary should resolve the crisis internally, preferably through “in camera” meeting of all Supreme Court judges. The SC has 25 judges right now.

The Parliament in the “long run” can frame laws that might address the concerns that have sprung up during the ongoing crisis, the former Lok Sabha secretary general said.

A chief justices’ conference in 1997 had come out with a set of rules of conduct for judges. It spoke of an in-house mechanism for addressing complaints against judges of the SC and the 24 high courts including the HC chief justices. However, there is no mechanism prescribed for complaints against the CJI.

Last Friday, in an unprecedented move, four top judges of the SC had gone public with their grievances against CJI Misra. On Tuesday, an organisation of lawyers and jurists including former judges under the banner of Campaign for Judical Accountability and Reforms made a 24-page complaint to the five seniormost Supreme Court judges alleging “misconduct” by the CJI.

The government stepping in would cause “heartburn” among the judiciary and political parties, Narain added.

First Published: Jan 17, 2018 12:58 IST