Former SC Judges & Lawyers React to SC Judges’ Press Briefing

In an unprecedented move, four sitting SC judges addressed a press conference on the judicial crisis in India.

9 min read
In an unprecedented development, four sitting SC judges, including Justice Chelameswar, addressed a press conference expressing concern over the functioning of the judicial system in India.

In an unprecedented development, four sitting SC judges, including second-most senior Justice Chelameswar, addressed a press conference expressing concerns over the functioning of the judicial system in India. Justice Chelameswar said:

“We collectively tried to persuade the CJI that certain things aren’t in order so take remedial measures, but unfortunately our efforts failed.”

Here’s how lawyers reacted to the startling crisis.

"This Will Have Serious Repercussions for the Judiciary's Image": Soli Sorabjee

Soli Sorabjee, former attorney general, said to CNN News-18:

The effect it has on the public image of the judiciary, I’m very upset. I wish they hadn’t done it. I see it as a very disappointing, distressing feature that four judges gave a press conference. It will have serious repercussions for the public image of the judiciary and the Indian Constitution. I think the judges should have a free and frank conversation.

“Is There An Interference by The Executive?” Asks Indira Jaising

Supreme Court advocate Indira Jaising said:

We welcome the fact that they gave a press conference. My question is, why is there a divide between the 4 and the CJI? Is there an interference by the executive, that’s what I want to know. I agree that this is not a protest. On the symbolism, it is historic and it’s well done. I congratulate them for having come out and been accountable for the nation. But they haven’t gone far enough.
Indira Jaising to CNN News18

“The Four Judges Should be Impeached”: RS Sodhi

A former High Court judge has come out against the press conference conducted by four sitting SC judges today. He said to ANI:

I think all four judges should be impeached. They should be shut out. They should be sent home. They have no place now to give judicial decisions. They’ve started a trade union there. They should be sent home.
RS Sodhi to ANI

He also said:

Four judges against CJI Dipak Misra. Such a question you’ve asked me. There are 20 others who not against him. Is this a majority? Do you rule by majority in the Supreme Court? If this is what you people are asking me, I  think such questions only arise because of immaturity.
RS Sodhi to ANI

“Govt is Caught in a Fix in an Internal Matter of the Judiciary”: Justice AK Ganguly

Expressing dismay at the SC developments, Justice AK Ganguly told The Quint:

“I'm shocked and dismayed at the developments in the SC today. It should have been settled by the judges by developing a mechanism of consensus of how judicial administration has to be carried out. But that has failed,” said Justice Ganguly.

He remarked that Justice Chemaleshwar and other judges’ past efforts to speak to the CJI over time had failed, stating that “this was a rigid attitude.”

Justice Ganguly went on to add that “the chief justice is the first among equals” and “this should not have been done.”

He must share and exchange his views and their must be a give and take and maybe some he should see that some of the points made by his colleagues are relevant. He cannot run the administration by taking a rigid view. Important cases were “selectively assigned”. It was assigned with a purpose for a particular result. It is completely against the principal of justice.”

Chief Justice Must Show Statesmanship: Former Chief Justice RM Lodha

The grievances of the four top Supreme Court judges should have been addressed by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, said one of his predecessors, former chief justice RM Lodha.

"It is painful and sad," Justice Lodha told NDTV. “The image of the judiciary had been dented and would take a long time to repair, he added.

These four wise men would have discussed and deliberated. For two months their grievance was not addressed and that’s why they did this.
Justice RM Lodha to NDTV

Judges Must Show ‘Statesmanship’ To Ensure Harmony: A-G Venugopal

Attorney General K K Venugopal said the move by senior Supreme Court judges to hold a press conference "could have been avoided" and the judges would now have to act in "statesmanship" to ensure complete harmony.

Venugopal, who had a meeting with Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra after the press conference, expressed hope that all judges, including the CJI, would rise to the occasion and "wholy neutralise" the "divisiveness", reported PTI

Democracy Functions In Open Spaces: Rebecca John

Senior advocate Rebecca John said that democracy functioned in “open spaces and not behind opaque doors,” adding that the issue was about institutional integrity. In a Facebook post, the senior lawyer wrote:

I find these politically correct responses, to what is clearly an unprecedented crisis, quite tiresome. I too wish it hadn’t come to this. I wish, they could have set their house in order by talking to each other and taking correctional measures. I wish there was no press conference. But sometimes you need to come out, when nothing else works. A democracy functions in open spaces, not behind opaque doors. And the problem facing the judiciary today is very very serious. It’s about institutional integrity. Recognise it.

“Chief Justice Abused his Power & Violated The Code of Conduct”: Prashant Bhushan

“The tandem of procedure was dealt with where cases were withdrawn from the senior judges dealing and assigned to junior judges. The most egregious case is the case of Prasad Medical college where the matter directly involved the Chief Justice himself, and therefore he had no business to deal with judicially or on the administrative side,” said senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

The Chief Justice not only proceeded to deal with the case but he changed the bench from 5 senior-most judges to 3 very junior judges of the court in order to achieve a pre-determined outcome.
Prashant Bhushan, to CNN-News18

“Now this is very very serious. It's a gross abuse of his power. It's a clear violation the principles of natural justice. It's a violation of the code of conduct which had been formulated in a Chief Justices conference for judges.”

You can’t allow a situation where the Chief Justice is abusing and misusing his power. Someone has to confront this situation, that’s why the four senior judges had to take this unprecedented step.
Prashant Bhushan, to CNN-News18

“The press conference these 4 judges took is very historic. It's important.”

“The Chief Justice keeps misusing or abusing his power in very important cases which have long-lasting effects on our law and democracy, these should be sent to senior judges with some rationale. Not arbitrarily sent to junior judges with the intent to end it. This is bad for governance. It's bad for democracy. So what the four judges have done is important, and shows how the Chief Justice is misusing his power.”

Judges Wouldn’t Have Taken Step Without Thinking: Shrihari Aney

These are very senior judges & come only after CJI. They wouldn’t have taken the step without thinking. If it has fallen upon them to take action, it’s up to us to understand what led to that.
Shrihari Aney, former Attorney General told ANI

Something Must Have Triggered the Four Judges to go Public: Ex-Bombay HC Judge Manjula Chellur

Reacting to the apex court judges' media briefing and their allegations, former Bombay High Court chief justice Manjula Chellur told PTI that something must have triggered the four judges to go public with their claims, PTI reported.

"These situations are difficult. But what needs to be kept in mind is that this is not about just individuals. This is about the institution in totality," Chellur told PTI.

"All steps must be taken to ensure that the dignity of the judiciary is held high. Courts are the last place the public goes to resolve their disputes and problems," she said.

“I am sure Attorney General KK Venugopal, Union Law Minister and others concerned will take into consideration all the factors and take a suitable decision,” Chellur, who retired last month, told PTI.

Judges Should Have Refrained From Going Public: Ex-HC Judge VG Palshikar

Former High Court judge VG Palshikar termed the top court judges' allegations as an "unprecedented move" and something that they should have refrained from, PTI reported.

"This is a black day in the history of courts. This should not have happened. There was no need to go to the public. They (four judges) should have raised these issues in a chamber meeting in the Supreme Court. We will now have to see what the Chief Justice of India does," he said.

“Historic Step Has Been Taken to Protect Our Right to Justice”: Vrinda Grover

In a Facebook post, senior lawyer Vrinda Grover hailed the four judges for the historic step in ensuring the “institutional integrity of the Supreme Court.”

“Salute, J Chelameswar, J Gogoi, J Lokur and J Joseph, for their unprecedented public statement, to ensure that the institutional integrity of the Supreme Court is not jeopardised. This historic step has been taken to protect our right to justice. The four senior-most Judges of the apex Court have spoken out against arbitrariness of the CJI in allocation of cases to Benches of the Supreme Court.

It is heartening to see that these Justices who form the collegium view their role and duty as guardians of the rights of the people and to safeguard the Supreme Court. Indian democracy will be grateful for their commitment and conviction. I am reminded today of JHR Khanna."

Steps Are Taken to Maintain the Dignity of the Judiciary: Ex-HC Judge Pramod Kode

Ex-high court judge Pramod Kode said this was a very serious issue, PTI reported.

"I hope all appropriate steps are taken to maintain the dignity of the judiciary," Kode said. He had heard the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case as the trial court judge.

Four Judges Have Created History: Anoop Mohta

Anoop Mohta, who retired from the high court last month, said the four judges have created history.

"This is like a volcano erupting. Such a thing has never happened," Mohta said, adding courts do not appreciate even when lawyers appear before the media with comments and opinions on the working of the judiciary.

"Supreme Court Is at an Unfortunate State": Ashwani Kumar

The former law minister said, “The Supreme Court is the moral keeper of the nation. The Supreme Court's situation has reached a very unfortunate state and will take a long time for us to recover.”

The Supreme Court’s position as the custodian of the Constitution has gone for a six. It will take a long time to restore the integrity of the Supreme Court. It’s one of the highest institutions in the country that the people have placed their faith in. The Supreme Court now has to clean its own house.
Ashwani Kumar,Former Law Minister to CNN News-18

“It shows that something is gravely wrong. It's not only about assignment of cases. The letter says it all. You don't have to read between the lines. The letter is very clear. These four judges' have made it clear.”

The way cases were assigned, the way rosters were made does not inspire confidence. Their attempts to broach subjects with the Chief Justice of India, to no avail. All these are statements by senior judges of India. These are not people who will say anything either for publicity or for the sake of saying it.
Ashwani Kumar,Former Law Minister to CNN News-18

"This Is Important to Assure Litigants That Justice Is Being Done": Karuna Nundy

Supreme Court lawyer Karuna Nundy told The Quint, “What has been spoken about is judicial predictability. It's a cornerstone of justice – which cases go to which  bench needs to be predictable and determined by subject matter, seniority, the computerised SC system etc.  It gives a certain assurance to the litigant that justice is being done.”

The outcome of a particular case may not be different but the process of who decides, in a predictable manner, is something that is quite important.
Karuna Nundy to The Quint

"Supreme Court Is the Custodian of People's Trust”: KTS Tulsi

“Transparency is like sunlight. It, in fact, is the greatest disinfectant. It needn’t affect any post.”

The Supreme Court is the custodian of the trust of the people. Regarding the rule of law and rule of democracy. If there’s inordinate delay in appointing judges, rule of law is impacted and in turn impacts democracy.
KTS Tulsi to CNN-News18

“There are administrative matters. There are conventions which are followed by the high courts, which are observed by the Supreme Court also.”

“One is memorandum of procedure. There are certain conventions with regard to which the senior judges are extremely concerned. They're also talking about certain judicial orders.”

“If You Lose Public’s Trust What Remains?”: Hansraj Bhardwaj

The former union law minister said:

It’s the loss of prestige of the entire institution. If you lose the public’s trust, what remains? Judiciary must remain pillar of democracy. It’s the responsibility of Law Minister to see how it functions. 
Hansraj Bhardwaj, former Union Law Minister

"This Is a Black Day for India": Ujjwal Nikam

“This is a black day for Indian law, because of the way this press conference was held. Because of some difference of opinion, bringing the issue to the public is sad. It shouldn't set a bad precedent for the subordinate judiciary,” senior lawyer Ujjwal Jain said.

From now on every common man could look at all judicial order with suspicion. Every judgment will be questioned.
Ujjwal Nikam to ANI

“Never Seen or Heard Anything Like This Before”: Advocate KN Bhatt

I’ve done this for five years and I’ve never seen or heard anything like this before. I think something happened this morning that triggered this meeting. The judges went to meet the Chief Justice of India and the reaction was probably negative, which triggered this. In any case, the judiciary cannot stay in the dark forever. Ever since the Collegium came into force, it’s never clear why things are happening and why they’re not happening.
Advocate KN Bhatt to CNN News18

He also added:

Two months ago, Justice Chelameswar wrote that the collegium is not transparent enough. What happened today is an eruption that was waiting to happen.
Advocate KN Bhatt to CNN News18

(With inputs from PTI, News18)

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