Did 4 SC judges go too far by openly dissenting against CJI in front of media?
New Delhi, Jan 13: What happens when we face an unprecedented event? First, it evokes shock. Second, once we understand the gravity of the situation, views fly thick and fast. In the process, experts air myriad and contrasting opinions.
A similar situation emerged when four topmost judges of the Supreme Court went to the press to express their dissent against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Friday in the national capital.
The four "wise" man--Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph--received both support and flak from the legal community.
While a section of retired judges and senior SC advocates criticised the four judges for washing dirty linen in public, others came out in their support.
What irked the top legal luminaries of the country against the four judges is that they went to the press instead of trying to resolve the matter internally.
The judiciary has always maintained a distance from the press and judges hardly speak to the media on any matter. Thus when the four "dissenting" judges, who rank just after the CJI, spoke "ill" about the CJI and current judicial affairs in front of cameras and watched by millions across the country, they broke "conventions".
The critics of the four judges stress that they have hurt the respectable position of the judiciary which in India mostly remain unquestionable till date.
"I think all the four judges should be impeached. They have no business to sit there and deliver verdicts anymore. This trade unionism is wrong. Democracy in danger is not for them to say, we have Parliament, courts, police functioning," said former judge RS Sodhi.
"I find it very distressful that this press conference was held. The confidence of public is important for efficient working of the judiciary. It was not a good move. I'm not in favour of this. Repercussions will not be good," said Soli Sorabjee, former Attorney General of India.
"When the judiciary goes for public opinion, it will spell the end of the judiciary," said Santosh Hegde, a former judge.
Others who decided to support the "rebels" feel that they were being compelled to go to the public with their grouses.
Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy came in support of the judges.
"We can't criticise them. They are men of great integrity and have sacrificed a lot of their legal career, where they could've made money as senior counsels. We must respect them. The PM (Narendra Modi) must ensure that the four judges and CJI, in fact, the whole SC come to one opinion and proceed further," said Swamy.
"It is certainly a very serious development which has cast a huge shadow on the CJI. Somebody had to confront the situation, where the CJI is blatantly misusing his powers, hence the unprecedented step," said SC lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
It is senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam who succinctly expressed the fear of all Indians, who generally hold great respect for the judiciary. "This is a black day for the judiciary. Today's press conference would cause a bad precedent. From now on every common man could look at all judicial order with suspicion. Every judgement will be questioned," said Nikam.
Since the judges have already presented their case in front of the public by raising questions against the CJI and functioning of the courts in the recent few months, it is time for the judiciary and legal luminaries to ponder how to clean the rot in the system to protect one of the highest and respectable institutions in the country.