BODY BLOW

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 13 Jan 2018 09:20:36

SINCE its inception long ago, at no point in its glorious history, has the honourable Supreme Court of India received such a body blow -- to its authority, dignity and sanctity. The moment four of its senior-most judges -- Mr. Justice J. Chelameswar, Mr. Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Mr. Justice Madan Lokur and Mr. Justice Kurian Joseph -- stepped out of their haloed chambers and protocol, the Supreme Court’s unassailable position came under an unprecedented and serious question. For, the four judges accused in no uncertain terms the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Dipak Misra, of having failed to conduct the affairs of the apex court properly. At no point in its history had the Indian judiciary -- at its highest point -- seen such an extraordinary situation that challenged everything the Supreme Court stood for so far. It may not be easy now even for the country’s best brains to rectify the situation and set in motion a right flow of order in the Supreme Court’s functioning. In a way, this development may even affect lower layers of Indian judiciary as well.

Not only did the four judges address a press conference making public their accusations but also wrote a letter to the Chief Justice expressing their concerns. Their concern seems to be pointing to many improprieties in the functioning of the Supreme Court and matters of procedure. The accusation also talks of certain unspoken agenda while assigning various cases to judges as part of regular operations of the Supreme Court. Alarmed by the development, Chief Justice Mr. Justice Dipak Misra called Attorney General Mr. K. K. Venugopal for an urgent meeting. The Government also took a note of the happening and Law Minister Mr. Ravishankar Prasad reportedly had a word with Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. Perhaps preferring to follow a wait-and-watch policy, the Government thought it proper to state that the development is a matter of the Supreme Court’s internal concern and it should settle it through its own wisdom.

It must be stated in total seriousness that the situation stemming from the developments is absolutely unprecedented and shocking for the nation at all levels. There would be now attempts to derive some political interpretation of the development. Attempts, too, would now be made to link some political leaders to certain developments. One interpretation doing the rounds in the national capital was that the development is closely linked to the case of sudden death of Special CBI judge Mr. B. H. Loya who was hearing the Soharabuddin case. Rumour mills also ran amok when some also felt that some Leftist political leaders had had a meeting with the four judges who addressed the controversial press conference.

No matter all that, the most critical question that will keep haunting the nation from now on is about the breach of propriety indulged by the four judges by going public with their grievances. Was the issue so difficult to be sorted out internally that they felt compelled to go public? -- is the question everybody now harbours in their mind. Was the Chief Justice so inconsiderate not to listen to the concerns of brother-judges? Was he so blind to the realities which they wanted to bring to his notice?

The answers to these questions would never be easy to come by. Yet, there is no reason to suspect that the Chief Justice could be so absolutely beyond reach that the four senior-most judges felt compelled to write a long letter to him and then go public with their grievances. The whole thing smacks of a tone that is so confusing to the common Indian people. That an organisation of the height and level of the Supreme Court cannot sort out its internal issues internally in a mature manner, is something that would flummox anybody and everybody.

Of course, it must be confessed that in the past some time, the manner in which the Supreme Court tackled things was becoming as matter of open public concern. In many cases, its conduct was so confusing that the common people did not understand why the apex court took so long a time to deliver a judgement of cases that had been adjourned for verdict. In most such cases, the verdicts came, followed almost immediately by the retirement of a judge concerned. The common people also felt terribly confused about the interest the honourable Supreme Court took in the affairs of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which happens to be a private body. Of course, there must be compelling reasons for all those developments to follow certain route. Yet, for the common people, they appeared extremely confusing.

Let alone those aspects, what is now out in the open is a yawning gap in the top echelons of India’s judicial pyramid. If four senior judges of the Supreme Court decide to air their grievances publicly, then there is a possibility that the some people may suspect that they were pushed into that stance by internal conditions prevailing within the four walls of the Supreme Court. Or, some others may feel compelled to interpret the development as an outcome of moves by some forces whose identity could never come up in public knowledge.

Considering all these developments, it must be said with total sadness that the honourable Supreme Court stands stigmatised due to the happenings. These happenings have caused a terrible body blow to the dignity and decorum of the honourable Supreme Court. With all these developments open to so many interpretations and even rumours, the four judges have thrown open floodgates of all sorts of wrong images flooding in and out to damage the honour of the Supreme Court. This must not have even happened, no matter the trauma the four judges might have felt. They should never have gone public with their concerns and considerations. They may describe this misdemeanour as their compulsion. Even then, they would never be able to justify their action as it has led to many serious ramifications.