NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented move, four sitting senior Supreme Court judges have revolted against the chief justice of India (CJI), accusing him of compromising the spirit of democracy in the country, and demanding corrective measures to preserve judicial autonomy.
A press conference in New Delhi on Friday by justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph highlighted the growing rift between senior judges and CJI Dipak Misra.
вЂњThis is an extraordinary event in the history of any nation, more particularly this nation, and an extraordinary event in the institution of the judiciary,вЂќ said Chelameswar, the second-most-senior judge.
вЂњWeвЂ™re all convinced that unless this institution is preservedвЂ¦ democracy wonвЂ™t survive in this country,вЂќ he added.
вЂњThe hallmark of a good democracy is an impartial and independent judiciary, and we donвЂ™t want to be blamed for selling our souls.вЂќ
Ever since taking charge in August 2017, the chief justice has moved cases on numerous occasions from one bench to another on a whim.
Protesting judges say Misra is using his power to allot cases arbitrarily, not in the spirit of constitutionality and democracy.
The matter came to a head with the death in 2014 of Justice Brijgopal Harkishan Loya. Three years later, a New Delhi-based magazine raised doubts about the manner in which he died.
The Mumbai High Court was supposed to hear a petition for a probe into his death on Wednesday, but the CJI gave the case to two junior judges in the Supreme Court. Judges wanted the case to be given to senior peers, considering the gravity of the case.
вЂњWe all want the judiciary to survive, and this is the only top institution of the country that can safeguard you and me,вЂќ said senior Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising.
Prominent lawyer Prashant Bushan said: вЂњThis is a serious matter. The judges who came out protesting are highly reputed and very conservative. They are known for their wisdom.вЂќ
Political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay told Arab News: вЂњThe unprecedented development today is a direct indictment of (Prime Minister) Narendra ModiвЂ™s regime.вЂќ
Mukhopadhyay added: вЂњIt proves beyond doubt what civil society members have been alleging for the past few years, that Modi has been eroding the autonomy and credibility of constitutional bodies in a systematic manner ever since he came to power.вЂќ
He said the only way out of this crisis is for Misra to resign, adding: вЂњMy feeling is that the government will allege that protesting judges are in cahoots with forces that are trying to destabilize the country or the government, as theyвЂ™ve done with civil society members who have criticized the governmentвЂ™s divisive and sectarian agenda.вЂќ
The opposition Congress PartyвЂ™s President Rahul Gandhi said the points raised by the judges are вЂњextremely importantвЂќ and вЂњmust be looked into carefully.вЂќ
IndiaвЂ™s Attorney General K. Venugopal, the governmentвЂ™s chief legal adviser, said if the protesting judges had вЂњavoided going to the press,вЂќ the matter would have been resolved вЂњin a day or two.вЂќ