On January12, when four Supreme Court Judges addressed a press conference, they confirmed what has been talked about in private – the rot has reached the top. One of the pillars of democracy seems to be tottering. As Justice J. Chelameswar, one of the four judges, put it with a heavy heart and anguish, democracy is in danger as some of the orders passed by the apex court have adversely affected the overall functioning of the justice delivery system. Supreme Court is the ultimate authority people turn to when individuals and institutions fail in their duty. But who will keep the keepers if the latter fail in their duty? The issues raised by the judges impinge on the very independence of the judiciary, and in turn the very functioning of democracy.
The judges stated that the Chief Justice was assigning sensitive cases ‘selectively to the benches of his preference’. This logically means that the verdict is pre-determined. This implies that there is an unknown hand or hands that control some of the decisions by the highest court of the land. The beneficiaries of such decisions are definitely not the common man, but powers-that-be in the government, political parties or corporate houses. People would have taken the charges levelled by the four Judges with a pinch of salt but for some of the recent verdicts handed out by the Supreme Court which went in favour of high-profile people involved in them. If cases are assigned to pliable judges, the verdicts are likely to suit the higher-ups in the party and the government. This will put axe to the very root of democracy.
Doubts have been cast on the functioning of the Chief Justice of India not by ordinary citizens, but by some of the senior most judges in the apex court. Justice Chelameswar is number two and Justice Ranjan Gogoi is the next in line to become the CJI. If such senior most judges have put their neck on the block, it is because they felt the need to save the judiciary from those who are at the beck and call of political bosses. The ‘dissenting’ judges went to the extent of saying that the present working of the Supreme Court can lead to ‘unpleasant and undesirable consequences’ leading to the very collapse of democracy.
There have been attempts to portray the judges’ press conference as a fallout of internal rift among the Supreme Court judges. It is nothing but a bid to trivialize the issue. The four judges are not known for publicity craving. They had written to the Chief Justice a couple of months back seeking remedial measures to the issues raised by them. They went public, with a heavy heart as they themselves said, only after the Chief Justice failed to make any move to resolve the crisis. Amid allegations of corruption in the lower judiciary, people look to the Supreme Court as the last resort for justice. Now, dark clouds are hanging over this very sanctum sanctorum of justice. If the Chief Justice of India fails to remove them and restore the glory of the highest court, it will be a major blow to the very survival of democracy.
(Published on 22th January 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 04)