ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Beyond the Supreme Court

The apex court is not the only democratic institution facing a crisis of credibility.

It is certainly more than the proverbial “storm in a teacup” and definitely not just a “family dispute.” The debate provoked by the press conference held by four of the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court in New Delhi on 12 January 2018 has reminded us that no institution is beyond questioning or reform. While the November 2017 letter that Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph wrote to Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra is reticent in providing specific details about the nature of their disagreement with him, it is clear now that their disquiet was the result of a series of events, not just one. A media hungry for cause and effect has picked on the case of Central Bureau of Investigation Judge B H Loya’s sudden death in December 2014, and the bench chosen to hear the pending petition before the Supreme Court, as the reason that prompted the justices to go public.

While some people have questioned the propriety of the senior Supreme Court judges going to the press, no one can deny the need to inject transparency and accountability into the functioning of this Court of last resort for the Indian citizen. If even an iota of what is stated in the letter to the CJI (see EPW, Letters, 13 January 2018) is true, there is more than one reason to be worried. The central issue raised by the judges is that politically sensitive cases were being deliberately assigned to particular benches, possibly with a specific outcome in mind. They express concern over the roster management of the CJI, emphasise the rules that ought to be followed and conclude that departing from these rules would “lead to unpleasant and undesirable consequences of creating doubt in the body politic about the integrity of the institution.” In fact, they go on to say that departure from these norms has “already damaged the image of this institution to some extent.”

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Updated On : 29th Jan, 2018

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