Writing in The Wire at the time, Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan said, “I believe the order that has been passed really undermines the order of Justice Chelameswar, the number two judge, referring this matter to five senior most judges of the Supreme Court on Monday. It gives the impression that it is not a spontaneous breakout, but a well-planned strategy at pulling down the judiciary”, he added.
Observers say it was unprecedented for Indian judges to publicly criticize the head of the country’s highest court. I think it needs to be looked into carefully. Asked specifically if they were upset over reference of the matter seeking a probe into the suspicious death of Special CBI judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, justice Gogoi said: “Yes”.
Maintaining that this development must be viewed with “serious concern”, it said the CJI is “duty bound to rectify the situation” and take appropriate remedial measures after a full discussion with other members of the collegium and at a later stage, if required, with other judges of the apex court.
At the time of his death, Loya was hearing a case that accused Amit Shah, the president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, of ordering extrajudicial killings when he served as home minister under Modi in the state of Gujarat. No formal notices were issued to the respondent – instead, those were issued only to the counsel for the respondent in a case where high stakes were involved, he had said. The Congress party has attempted the same, it has tried its best to politicise internal issues of judiciary.
The stunning mutiny against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has yet again given rise the perception of “excess government interference” in the judiciary.
The CJI-headed bench had overturned Justice Chelameswar’s order and asserted that Chief Justice of India is the “master of the roster”.
In theory, Misra can recommend someone else over Gogoi, especially if he claims the latter’s behaviour has affected the image of the Supreme Court. When I came to know of the extraordinary step taken by him and other judges, I thought must meet him. If senior CPI leader D Raja turned up at Justice Chelameswar’s residence soon after the judges finished addressing a press conference there, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said that the points raised by the four judges are “extremely important”. And Prashant Bhushan the lawyer and politician said CJI Dipak is misusing his power and this must have to stop because it is unsafe for our democracy. “The judges will now have to act in a statesman like manner and ensure that the divisiveness is wholly neutralised and total harmony and mutual understanding will prevail in future”, he said.
Unless this institution is preserved, “democracy will not survive” in this country, Justice Chelameswar said at the unscheduled press conference, in the first of its kind event in independent India, leaving uncertain how this open dissension in the hallowed institution would be resolved.