On January 12, 2017, something extraordinary happened when top four judges of the Supreme Court of India (J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph) addressed the media and said that all is not well within the judiciary. This was the first instance of Supreme Court judges airing their grievances in public and questioned the workings of the current Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The four judges expressed their unhappiness with the way Supreme Court is functioning and also talked about the allotment of cases and emphasised on Chief Justice is the first among equals and has to discharge his duties fairly and transparently.
Did this open revolt by four judges needed, considering the stature of the chair of Chief Justice? As per the norms, Chief Justice is the ‘master of the roster’ and it his discretion to assign cases to the benches of judges. The whole controversy comes at a time when so many politically sensitive cases (Aadhaar, Babri Masjid dispute, criminalisation of homosexuality, death of Justice Loya, 1984 anti-Sikh riots etc.) are about to be heard and it sends a very wrong signal if top most judges of the apex court are not on the same page and it weakens the institution greatly.
The central government to their credit have stayed out of this matter completely and only the Attorney General KK Venugopal has been authorised to speak to the media regarding this issue. On the other hand, Congress is fishing in troubled waters and wants a re-look in the death of Justice Loya, who had allegedly died under mysterious circumstances and was the judge handling the case of BJP president Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.
The need of the hour is that all the aggrieved judges should talk with Chief Justice Dipak Misra and sort out their issues. Indian judiciary is the last ray of hope for the common man amidst political chaos and instability and people still have an immense amount of faith in the high standard of the Supreme Court. The judiciary also has to answer tough questions on the rampant amount of corruption, rigging of cases, unbelievable amount of delay in disposing of cases and the perception of being a cozy club. India has to protect and preserve its judiciary to safeguard the human rights and it has to be understood that no individual is bigger than the institution and if we truly believe in the principles of democracy than Dipak Misra has to answer the tough questions and set an example for the future generations.
Post Script: Certain sections of media are having conspiracy theories regarding the revolt and dissent by four judges and saying that what the four esteemed judges did was not in national interest. Out of four judges, Justice Ranjan Gogoi is the next in line to become the Chief Justice of India. Just an observation!