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PIL matters should be taken up by CJI or assigned to collegium judges: Supreme Court Bar Association

Meanwhile, the Bar Council of India said it had decided to form a seven-member team that will meet the Supreme Court judges. A day after four senior judges publicly criticised CJI Dipak Misra, it welcomed the government stand not to interfere and urged parties to refrain from politicising the issue.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2018 23:26 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Supreme Court,SC judges press conference,SC judges talk to media
Supreme Court Bar Association president Vikas Singh addresses a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)

A day after the rift between the top judges in the Supreme Court of India became public, the four judges who criticised the Chief Justice of India (CJI) for his style of administration and over the allocation of cases got support from the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the apex body of lawyers practising in the top court, for their demand to reassign the petition seeking further probe into the death of Judge Brijgopal Loya to another bench.

This case appears to be the final straw that made the simmering differences between the top judges boil over. Two petitions demanding a fair probe into Judge Loya’s mysterious death were listed before a bench that is headed by a judge who is 10th in terms of seniority.

The SCBA on Saturday passed a resolution saying “all PIL matters, including pending PIL matters, should be either taken up by the Honourable Chief Justice of India, or if he has to assign it to any other bench, it should be assigned to the judges in the collegium.”

SCBA president Vikas Singh clarified that by collegium, the association meant the top four judges after the CJI. The SC has two collegiums – one that has the chief justice and two of his immediate juniors in a three-member panel to pick high court judges, and the other that has the CJI and his four juniors who pick judges to the Supreme Court.

“Even the matters listed on Monday, January 15 (including the Judge Loya case) should also be transferred as per our request,” the SCBA said in a release that called the differences among the judges a “matter of grave concern” and requested the full court to consider the issue.

Other efforts were on to mediate between the CJI and the four senior judges of the SC. The Bar Council of India (BCI), a regulatory body for the legal profession, set up a seven-member panel to meet the chief justice Dipak Misra and the other judges and resolve the differences between them. The chairman of the BCI, Manan Kumar Mishra, told reporters that the press conference held by the four senior judges on Friday was an “unfortunate development”. “We have unanimously decided to form a 7-member delegation of the Council who will meet the judges of the Supreme Court. We want that the matter be solved at the earliest.”

He called the turmoil that Friday’s development has caused a “family matter”. The panel is expected to seek an appointment with the judges on Sunday. Manan appealed to all political parties not to politicise this issue. But parties, from the Shiv Sena to the DMK to the Congress, continued to weigh in with their statements on Saturday.

In Kochi, Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the four judges who had made his differences with the CJI public, said: “These issues are not personal but institutional. I hope they would be settled soon. I hope the customary meeting of four judges with the Chief Justice will take place as usual on Monday.”

On Friday, four senior SC judges, Justices Jasti Chelameshwar, Ranjan Gogoi — tipped to be the chief justice after CJI Dipak Misra retires in October — MB Lokur and Joseph said they had been “compelled to call” the press conference and speak out against the CJI. These four are part of the collegium that recommends high court judges.

“We wrote a letter to him and tried to persuade the CJI to take steps but failed. A request was made to do a particular thing in a particular manner but it was done in such a way that it left further doubt on the integrity of the institution. Unless the institution of Supreme Court is preserved, democracy won’t survive in this country,” they said.

First Published: Jan 13, 2018 19:50 IST