New Delhi, April 5: Chief Justice of India (CJI) HL Dattu termed on Sunday "unfortunate" the controversy surrounding his colleague Kurian Joseph's objection to holding a judges' conference on Good Friday, saying it's a 'family' matter and he will settle it. [Miffied SC judge writes to PM Modi]
Dattu said while all Supreme Court judges were invited on the occasion, the presence of only top three was mandatory. [PM Modi wants a powerful and perfect judiciary]
Seeking to downplay the controversy, Justice Dattu said the two-day affair on Friday and Saturday was actually not a 'conference' but a meeting where judges discuss among themselves issues and problems related to the judiciary.
When asked about the issues raised by Justice Joseph, he termed it "unfortunate".
"I am the head of the family... if one member questions me, we will settle it ourselves," he told reporters in an informal interaction after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a joint conference of Chief Justices of high courts and chief ministers in New Delhi.
He said as judges did not get time to interact with each other, such meetings were held periodically where important issues were discussed.
He added while all Supreme Court judges were invited, the attendance of top three apex court judges -- the CJI and two senior-most judges (in this case Justice TS Thakur and Justice AR Dave) -- was mandatory.
The last such event was organised on April 7, 2013.
Justice Joseph had written to the Prime Minister expressing his inability to attend the dinner for top judges Saturday night. He had said that equal importance and respect should be shown to the sacred days of all religions which were declared national holidays.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Justice Joseph had said: "Irrespective of the religion, Diwali, Holi, Dussehra, Eid, Bakrid, Christmas, Easter etc. are great days of festival celebrations in the neighbourhood. Your good self would kindly appreciate that no important programmes are held during sacred and auspicious days of Diwali, Dussehra, Holi, Eid, Bakrid etc., though we have holidays during that period as well."
"I regret my inability to attend the event as the Conference coincides with the Good Friday ceremonies. Good Friday is a day of great religious significance to us, marking the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ," he had said.
Dattu had on March 18 rejected Joseph's request, insisting it was not the first time the conference was held on a public holiday. He cited several precedents to support his decision, which he said was made to avoid disruption of normal working days. He also said institutional interests were paramount.
Christians had protested when the BJP-led government decided last year to observe former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's birthday, which coincides with Christmas, as "Good Governance Day".