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FACE-OFF

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CJI, REBEL JUDGES WHO WENT AGAINST HIS AUTHORITY TO MEET ON MONDAY.

New Delhi : Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and four senior-most judges who publicly went against his administrative authority on Friday will come face-to-face on Monday morning in the usual meeting that the five senior-most judges hold on the first day of the week. The four judges had announced on Friday itself that they will be attending the courts on Monday to handle the cases drawn up in the cause-list prepared by the Registry with the CJI’s approval.

In fact, they had quickly disposed of the cases listed before them on Friday before gathering at the residence of Justice Jasti Chelameswar for the press conference.


So far, the CJI has reacted through his aides, asserting that there was nothing wrong in his prerogative to fix the roster and assign the cases to various Benches. Unless there are fireworks in the meeting between the CJI and the four judges on Monday, there is a possibility that the CJI may call a full court meeting of all 25 judges. Insiders say majority of the judges are with the CJI on this issue.

Meanwhile, the case of the mysterious death of Mumbai’s CBI judge BH Loya, which has been made a bone of contention by the four judges, is not listed on Monday for hearing as ordered on Friday by the Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M M Shantanagoudar due to non-availability of Justice Shantanagoudar. Matters listed before the Bench will be taken up on Tuesday, a SC notice said. Another notice says the Constitution Bench will be hearing the Aadhaar case from Wednesday. The four judges are piqued also on the CJI chairing the Bench not including any one of them. Three of the judges are ranked at 17th, 18th and 19th, including Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud who are invariably on every 3-judge Bench CJI Misra heads. There was speculation that Justice Chelameswar, who headed the rebellion, was expected to visit the CJI’s residence on Saturday, but his office denied any such move, pointing out that the three other judges are out of Delhi and as such he would not take any decision even if called since after deciding to move jointly.

Attorney General K K Venugopal, the government’s topmost law officer, on Saturday visited the CJI and said he would also call on the four judges who revolted against him, exuding confidence that the issues will be sorted out and normalcy will return to the Apex Court on Monday when it reopens.

The Bar Council of India (BCI) held an emergency meeting to discuss the development and decided to send a delegation to meet the CJI and the four judges who spoke against him. It felt a press conference on a “minor issue” of roster is “saddening.”

BCI Chairman Manan Kumar Mishra described as “most unfortunate” the press conference held by the four judges, saying it sent out a wrong message that all was not well with the Supreme Court. He said the matter should have been “sorted out internally.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court Bar Association on Saturday claimed the allegations made by the four judges against the CJI were “not substantial” to take the drastic step of calling a press conference. Its president Vikas Singh said “If they had to come for a press conference, they should have said something substantial. Just creating doubts in the minds of people will not serve the interest of the judiciary.”

Because of this press conference, he said people will “wildly guess” about what is happening inside the top judicial body, and “all kinds of things will be said about the Supreme Court” that is worry of his association, Singh said, adding that “because of this drama, people are very sceptical about the impartiality of the Apex Court.” He said the bar association will be “proactive” to make sure that this doubt stilled in the minds of the public is dealt with.

‘Issue will be resolved’

  • Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the four SC judges who virtually revolted against the CJI, expressed confidence that the issues raised by them would be resolved.
  • “Stood up for justice and judiciary…That is what we said there (in New Delhi) yesterday. Nothing beyond that,” said Justice Joseph.