SC judges rift: No change in the Constitution Bench

On January 12, the four rebels in an unprecedented move in the annals of judiciary questioned the "unilateral and biased" decisions of the CJI in allocation of "important" cases to junior judges.

After Friday's tumultuous press conference by the four most senior judges of the where they alleged that sensitive cases were being assigned to "select benches", all the judges gathered for the first time on Monday morning for the customary tea before the day's work. The court, however, did not make any observation. The judges were unusually late to court by about 10 minutes, but the four protesting judges - Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph - did resume work as they had promised at their press conference.

The Bar Council of India has described the controversy as an internal matter of the Judiciary.

Instead, the news agency reported, the five-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan, will commence hearing on a range of crucial matters from 17 January. They appreciated the "grave concern" raised by the four Supreme Court judges that cases were not being allocated in a proper manner and "arbitrarily" allocated to "particular designated benches, often headed by junior judges".

The sordid drama has its genesis in a letter the judges wrote to the CJI two months ago.

"Four of us are convinced, the democracy will not survive". This institution should take action against these anti-national people.

Judiciary in India is considered sanctimonious and hardly every subjected to criticism from the outside world, whether the legislative or the executive wing of the parliamentary system.

"If four senior judges have gone public then how is it a Supreme Court matter?" There are now 25 judges on India's Supreme Court, with six vacancies.

Friday's public outburst by judges prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold an emergency meeting with his law minister on Friday but the government has refused to comment. Both the PILs were later assigned to a three-judge bench, excluding dissenting four judges, and dismissed. "The meetings with the judges took place in a very cordial atmosphere". "Everything is hunky dory", the attorney general said.

When his attention was drawn to today's statement of Attorney General K K Venugopal, he said, "I don't know how and why the Attorney General is saying like this". While earlier people were whispering that corruption, favouritism and nepotism are rampant in the judiciary, now such talks will become even louder because of this unexpected mutiny.

  • Leroy Wright