'The Chief Justice is only the first among the equals': Four SC judges hold historic press conference

Is there a crisis in the Indian judiciary?

In a unprecedented incident, four senior most judges of the Supreme Court addressed the media today. The press conference was held at the residence of Justice J Chamameswar, also attended by Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph. The need for interaction with the media was triggered apparently by the roster of justices at the Supreme Court.  Justice J Chelameshwar, who spoke on behalf of the four judges, said the administration of the nation’s top court was not in order.

Describing the press conference as an extraordinary event in the history of the apex court, he said that the four judges were compelled to act in this way because Chief Justice Mishra could not be persuaded to mend the ways of the court. “We met CJI this morning. We collectively tried to persuade CJI that certain things aren’t in order so take remedial measures, but unfortunately our efforts failed,” said Justice Chelameswar.

“The four of us gave a letter to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) some months ago,” the justices revealed. “It is discharge of debt to the nation which has brought us here, Justice Ranjan Gogoi told media here this morning. “Democracy in this country would not survive without an institution as important as the Supreme Court, and a free judiciary,” Justice Chelameshwar said. “It is with no pleasure that we have been compelled to do this, administration of Supreme Court is not in order,” Justice Chelameswar said on behalf of the four judges. In response to a question on whether Chief Justice Dipak Misra should be impeached, Justice Chelameshwar said it was for the nation to decide.

Earlier, they had written a letter to the Chief Justice of India, bringing to his notice the following things:

On 4 July, 2017, a Bench of seven Judges of this Court decided In Re. Hon’ble Shri Justice C.S. Karnan [(2017) 1 SCC 1]. In that decision (referred to in R.P.Luthra), two of us observed that there is a need to revisit the process of appointment of judges and to set up a mechanism for corrective measures other than impeachment. No observation was made by any of the seven learned judges with regard to the memorandum of procedure.

Any issue with regard to the Memorandum of Procedure should be discussed in the Chief Justices Conference and by the full court. Such a matter of grave importance if at all required to be taken on the judicial side should be dealt with by none other than a Constitution bench.

The above development must be viewed with serious concern. The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India is duty bound to rectify the situation and take appropriate remedial measures after a full discussion with the other members of the Collegium and at a later stage, if required, with other Hon’ble Judges of this court.

Once the order arising from the issue dated 27 October, 2017 in R.P. Luthra vs. Union of India mentioned above, is adequately addressed by you and if it becomes so unnecessary we will apprise you specifically of the other judicial orders passed by this Court which would require to be similarly dealt with.

The letter also said, “The Chief Justice is only the first among the equals – nothing more, nothing less. ”

Here’s are some reactions of eminent personalities in the legal community.

On Twitter, the four judges, particularly, Justice Gogoi was praised.