The four – Justices J Chelameswar, Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurien Joseph – addressed the media at Justice Chelameswar’s home, an event that Chelameswar said was “extraordinary in the history of any nation” but that they were “compelled” to do it.
At the press meet, Justice J Chelameswar, the second senior-most judge in the top court, said the administration of the top court is “not in order” and that efforts to convince Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had “failed”. Chelameswar sounded caution over the “survival of democracy” and replying to a question on whether the CJI should be impeached said it was for the nation to “decide”.
The four judges' wrote a letter to the CJI two months ago, airing their grievances about selective assigning of important cases to judges who are junior to them.
Here are the four main issues they had with the CJI
1. Important cases assigned by CJI to benches of preference without any rationale
The judges felt important cases get heard by CJI-led bench and do not distributed to other senior judges heading benches.
"Once of the well settled principles is that the Chief Justice is the master of the roster with a privilege to determine the roster, necessity in multi-numbered courts for an orderly transactions of business and appropriate arrangements with respect to matter with which member/Bench of this court (as the case may be) is required to deal with which case or class of cases is to be made. The convention of recognising the privilege of the Chief Justice to form the roster and assign cases to different members/benches of the court is a convention devised for a disciplined and efficient transaction of business of the court but no a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues. It is too well settled in the jurisprudence of this country that the Chief Justice is only the first amongst the equals — nothing more or nothing less," the letter said.
2. The judges alleged that cases with far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution have been assigned by the Chief Justice selectively to the benches "of their preference" without any rational basis" and that this must be 'guarded against at all costs.'
"In the above context, we deem it proper to address you presently with regard the order dated 27th October, 2017, in R B Luthra vs. Union of India to the effect that there should be no further delay in finalising the Memorandum of Procedure in the larger public interest. When the Memorandum of Procedure was a subject matter of a decision of a Constitution Bench of this court in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association and Anr. vs Union of India, [(2016) 5 SCC 1] it is difficult to understand as to how any other bench could have dealt with the matter,"the letter alleged.
3. The administration of the Supreme Court is not in order and many things less than desirable has happened in the past few months
"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 letter said.
The judges were not happy about the medical college admissions scam being sent to court no 7 after a Justice Chelameswar headed bench sent it to a five-judge bench of himself, the CJI, and Justices Gogoi, Lokur and Joseph.
4. The judges also said CJI should not head a small bench and deal with the memorandum of procedure when it was earlier heard by a five-judge bench.
"On 4th July 2017 , a Bench of seven Judges of this Court decided In Re Hon'ble Shri Justice C S Karnan [ (2017) 1 SCC 1]. In that decision (referred to in R. P . Luthra), two of us observed that there is a need to revisit the process of appointment of judges and to set up a mechanism for corrective measures other than impeachment. No observation was made by any of the seven learned judges with regard to the Memorandum of Procedure.Any issue with regard to the Memorandum of Procedure should be discussed in the Chief Justices Conference and by the Full Court. Such a matter of grave importance, if at all required to be taken on the judicial side, should be dealt with by none other than a Constitution Bench," the letter alleged.
In essence, the letter raised these primary questions in the seven-page letter to the CJI
1) Is top judiciary being run on whims?
2) Are most senior judges being bypassed by the CJI?
3) Are all big cases against the govt being assigned to "selective" benches