Managing the SC crisis: Bar Council forms team; Congress takes on Modi

Supreme Court of India
The Bar Council of India has set up a seven-member team in an attempt to resolve the differences between the four dissenting Supreme Court judges and Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra. The team is expected to start its deliberations  with all judges, except the top five, immediately.

The Supreme Court Bar Association also passed a resolution on Saturday that the rift should be considered by a full bench of the apex court. It also said that the CJI or senior judges should look at all public interest litigations.

Though Manan Kumar Mishra, chairman, Bar Council, asked parties not to politicise the issue, a controversy surfaced around Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, visiting the CJI’s residence.

The Congress party on Saturday asked the PM to explain the reason for sending his ‘special messenger’ (Nripendra Misra) to meet the CJI.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted: "As PM’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra visits Chief Justice of India’s residence at 5, Krishna Menon Marg. The PM must answer the reason for sending this special messenger to the Chief Justice of India."

It all started when news agency ANI reported on Saturday afternoon that Nriprendra Misra was "seen outside" the CJI's residence. “On the way to office, I stopped at the CJI's residence, and left my card at the gate with Happy New Year greetings. I did not meet the CJI," Nripendra Misra told the media later.

Attorney General K K Venugopal was also slated to meet the CJI. Government sources said the CJI in turn was expected to meet the four judges on Sunday.

Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur, and Kurian Joseph had on Friday held a press conference and issued a statement to say that the situation in the top court was "not in order" and that many "less than desirable" things had taken place. They had said that "democracy will not survive in the country" unless the institution was preserved.

"There is no crisis," Justice Gogoi told reporters in Kolkata. He was in the city to attend the eastern regional meet of the state legal services authorities. According to a news report from Kolkata, Justice Gogoi refused to elaborate and said he had a flight to catch for Lucknow.

In Kochi, Justice Joseph said the four judges had acted solely in the interest of the judiciary and justice.

“Stood up for justice and judiciary.... That is what we said there (in New Delhi). Nothing beyond that,” Justice Joseph said in Malayalam, when local news channels approached him at his ancestral home in Kalady, Kerala. “An issue has come to attention. It will certainly be solved since it has come to the attention,” he said. Justice Joseph said the judges had acted only to “enhance the trust of the people in judiciary.”

In Mumbai, BJP ally Shiv Sena’s chief Uddhav Thackeray said attempts were being made to make the judiciary “deaf and dumb”. Thackeray said the government should not meddle in the matter and allow the judiciary to do its work.

“The decision of those judges should be lauded. There is a high possibility that there will be an inquiry called against them now. However, it should be unbiased,” he added.

Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, who has turned a critic of the Modi government in the recent times, said in Noida that his party colleagues and ministers should “get rid of their fear” and “speak up for democracy”, just like the four Supreme Court judges who came out publicly against the CJI. Sinha, a former finance and external affairs minister, said the prevailing atmosphere was like the Emergency in 1975-77 and voiced concern over short parliamentary sessions.

If Parliament is compromised, the Supreme Court is not in order, democracy is threatened, he said.

In Lucknow, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav said the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raids at the residences of Karti Chidambaram was to distract people from the issues raised by the judges. The ED on Saturday conducted searches at 10 premises linked to Karti Chidambaram in connection with money laundering probe in the Aircel-Maxis case.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam asked President Ram Nath Kovind to intervene in the matter. “In case, if a stage comes wherein judges could not resolve the issue, President Kovind should intervene and resolve it,” party’s working president M K Stalin said in Chennai.

(With inputs from PTI)

Managing the crisis

* Bar Council team, set up to solve differences, to have 7 members
* Team expected to start deliberations immediately
* Only the five senior-most SC judges not to be part of deliberations
* Bar Council is of the view that such issues should not be made public
* Supreme Court Bar Association asks rift be considered by a full bench of SC

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