Today’s events suggest that the Supreme Court of India may never be the same again.
Whether you think of the public airing of grievances by the four senior-most judges against the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, as a revolt or a move towards transparency.
Whether you think it is justified or not.
Whether you think the Chief Justice of India is right or wrong.
A tradition of silence has been broken. And it cannot be returned to ‘unbroken’.
The four judges – Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi (next CJI), Justice Madan Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph – have raised questions regarding the allocation of cases and the lack of finalisation of the Memorandum of Procedure.
Incidentally, these judges, along with the Chief Justice, constitute the Collegium – the body that appoints judges to the higher judiciary. Their intent may have been to open the window and let the sunlight in. But it also amounts to a no-confidence motion against the top-most judge of the country and the ability of the Supreme Court to fix its own problems.
Senior advocate Arvind Datar described the events as “worrying.” Senior advocate Indira Jaising described it as a move towards transparency. Well-known lawyer Prashant Bhushan said it will have serious implications for the Chief Justice of India and suggested he resign.
The manner in which institutional weaknesses are exposed is important. Because they can determine whether the next moves will be constructive. Or destructive.
It’s difficult to tell whether today’s events will lead to a stronger Supreme Court or one weakened by a combination of infighting, questionable procedures, and opacity. Whether governments, including of the day, will take advantage of the weakness or work towards restoring the institution to strength.
The former is more likely, at least in the short term. Unless the other good judges, and there are many of them, come together and help mend fences, improve processes and shut the window before the chill sets in. Because winter is coming.
(Menaka Doshi is Managing Editor at BloombergQuint. This article was first published on BloombergQuint)