Justice Chelameswar vents anguish over affairs in Supreme Court

The apparent rift between the Chief Justice of India and Justice J Chelameswar on Thursday came to the fore again.

By: | Updated: 12 Apr 2018 07:23 PM
Justice Chelameswar vents anguish over affairs in Supreme Court

Four Supreme Court judges Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B. Lokur besides Justice Chelameswar. Photo: PTI (File)

NEW DELHI: The apparent rift between the Chief Justice of India and Justice J Chelameswar on Thursday came to the fore again with the senior most judge expressing anguish over the affairs in the Supreme Court and refusing to list a PIL questioning the existing roster practice of allocation of cases by the CJI.

Justice Chelameswar accused "someone" of running a "relentless tirade" against him as if he was trying to "grab something".

The strong observations of the judge came when activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan approached the bench seeking urgent listing of a PIL filed by his father and former law minister Shanti Bhushan seeking (a change in) the existing master of roster concept and formulation of guidelines for allocation of cases in top court.

As Justice Chelameswar refused to heed to Bhushan's request, the lawyer moved the CJI's bench which assured him that the matter would be looked into.

After the rift between CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Chelameswar had surfaced for the first time in November last year, a new practice was introduced, as per which, urgent mentioning of all matters was being done only before the bench headed by CJI.

Disregarding the practice, Bhushan rushed to court number 2, presided over by Justice Chelameswar, and sought urgent listing of the PIL on the ground that the CJI was a party in the petition and there was an "emergency situation".

However, Justice Chelameswar told Bhushan "someone is running a relentless tirade against me that I am up to grab something. There is nothing I can do much in this. I am sorry. You please understand my difficulty."

Observing that the country will understand everything and follow its own course, Justice Chelameswar, who was sitting with Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, said he would not like to deal with the matter as the reasons were "too obvious".

"Mr. Bhushan, I don't want one more reversal of my order in the next 24 hours. This is why I can't do it. Please understand my difficulty," he said. He was apparently referring to the reversal of an order of a bench headed by him by the CJI's bench on November 10 last year.

Justice Chelameswar also referred to his March 21 letter written to the CJI about alleged government interference in judiciary and said "Few days back, I have written a letter which is in a public domain. You all know about that".

His remarks came in the backdrop of two recent letters written by him and Justice Kurian Joseph over the affairs of the Supreme Court and alleged interference by the executive in judicial matters.

Bhushan, who persisted with his arguments for urgent hearing, said he was forced to approach Justice Chelameswar's bench as the PIL was filed 10 days back but the matter is not being listed by the apex court registry.

On being denied urgent listing of his father's PIL by Justice Chelameswar's bench, Bhushan immediately rushed to the adjacent court of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and mentioned the matter for expeditious listing.

The bench headed by CJI said, "We will look into it."

Chelameswar's bench had on November 9 last year ordered setting up of a bench, comprising five senior most judges, to hear a PIL filed by NGO 'Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms' related to alleged medical admission scam.

The order was over turned by a CJI-led bench the very next day on the ground that since the Chief Justice was the Master of the Roster, he alone had the prerogative to constitute benches and neither a two-Judge, nor a three-Judge bench can allocate the matter to themselves or direct the constitution of a bench.

On Wednesday, the apex court bench headed by the CJI had once again reasserted that the Chief Justice of India was the "first among equals" and occupied a unique position having the "exclusive prerogative" to allocate cases and set up benches to hear cases.

On January 12 this year, the four senior judges of the apex court, Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph warned that democracy was at risk and mounted a virtual revolt against the CJI raising questions on "selective" case allocation and certain judicial orders, sending shockwaves across the judiciary and polity.

In an unprecedented move, these judges had convened a press conference and said the situation in the top court was "not in order" and many "less than desirable" things have taken place.

Subsequently on March 21, Justice Chelameswar had shot off a letter to the CJI asking him to consider convening a full court to take up the issue of alleged executive interference in judiciary.

In a latest development, Justice Kurian Joseph has also written a letter to the CJI expressing concern over the delay by the government in clearing the names recommended by the collegium in February for elevation.

The collegium had in February recommended the names of senior advocate Indu Malhotra and Justice K M Joseph, Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, for appointment as judges of the Supreme Court.

Expressing concern over the independence of the judiciary, Justice Joseph has asked the CJI to establish a bench of seven senior-most judges to suo motu take up the matter of the government sitting on the two names.

He has also said that the government's act of sitting over on the recommendations of the Collegium was "abuse of power" which sends a wrong message to all the judges not to cause any displeasure to the executive.

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First Published: 12 Apr 2018 07:22 PM
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