4 senior SC judges raise questions over Chief Justice’s credibility; mention cases that convey their stand

Four Indian Supreme Court judges – Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph – held an unusual news conference in the national capital on Friday, January 12, about the administration of the Supreme Court, including the role of Chief Justice Dipak Misra. The press conference was conducted at the residence of Justice J Chelameswar and said that the event was extraordinary in the history of any nation but that they were compelled to do it. The four judges wrote a letter to the CJI two months ago, explaining their grievances about assigning of important cases to judges junior to them or to selective benches.

In the seven-page letter the judges, to convey their stand, the judges mentioned an order passed in the case ‘RP Luthra vs Union of India Ministry of Law and Another respondents’ passed on October 27. What exactly does the case say that the four justices speak publicly against the CJI? Here we explain to you.

Luthra, a lawyer and petitioner in the case, had challenged the appointments made to the higher judiciary in the absence of the revised Memorandum of Procedure. While hearing the case, the bench of justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit issued a notice to the Centre and asked for the presence of Attorney General KK Venugopal. The two justices issued a notice for the delay in finalising the MoP in larger public interest and rejected Luthra’s challenge seeking cancellation of the appointment of judges without the MoP. It further added that the collegium must begin the process to fill vacancies of chief justices in high courts at least a month before vacancies arise an in accordance with the Memorandum of Procedure for Appointment (MOP) currently in force, in pursuance of judgment of this Court in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association and Others versus Union of India, (1993) 4 SCC 441, para 478.

The letter also reads, “The member of any multi-numbered judicial body including this court would not arrogate to themselves the authority to deal with and pronounce upon matter which ought to be heard by appropriate benches, both composition wise and strength wise with due regard to the roster fixed.

Any departure from the above two rules would not only lead to unpleasant and undesirable consequences of creating doubt in the body politic about the integrity of the institution. Not to talk about the chaos that would result from such departure. We are sorry to say that off late the twin rules mentioned above have not been strictly adhered to.”

The judges were annoyed about the ‘Medical College Admissions Scam’ case being sent to court number 7 after a Justice Chelameswar headed bench sent it to a five-judge bench of himself, the CJI and Justices Lokur, Joseph and Gogoi.

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