The revelations of four senior-most Supreme Court judges to the nation through the media, giving a severe blow to the credibility of the apex court, are extraordinary and have far reaching consequences.
The four judges alleged that the conduct and style of exercise of authority by India’s Chief Justice (CJI) was ‘not in order’. The issues raised by Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurien Joseph, the most senior judges after the CJI, who are also the members of the Collegium, by addressing a press conference on Friday cannot be trivialized as an internal issue within the court system that could be collectively resolved by the judges.
The mask of anti-democratic aspects deep rooted in the Indian judicial system as well as the misuse of power conveniently concealed under terms like sanctity, fairness and respect of the judiciary has been laid bare by the judges before the public. They point towards the highly substantial facts that deserve immediate attention and demand an in-depth re-analysis of the Indian legal system.
‘An independent and impartial judicial system is essential for the existence of democracy. We met the CJI with a specific request which unfortunately couldn’t convince him that we were right. Therefore, we were left with no choice except to communicate it to the nation that please take care of the institution. The four of us are convinced that unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country. Don’t want people to say another 20 years later that Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph sold their souls. They didn’t take care of this institution, they didn’t take care of the interest of this nation. So we place it before the people of this country." The above statements of the judges indicate that allotment of cases to judgesby the CJI in violation of precedents and conventions was a clear misuse of power and violation of justice. The language of the four judges implicitly tell that these out of the way acts were to safeguard the vested interests and extraneous pressures in cases such as that of disqualifying justice Karnan and the mysterious death of justice Loya. And the beneficiaries of those cases are those in power at the Centre.
It is no small matter, as the Bar Council points out, that not only the majority of the judges but even the Chief Justice failed to follow the code of conduct introduced by the Supreme Court to tackle loss of integrity.-. That is the reason why those standing for democracy in the field of law unanimously make it clear that the explosive press conference which could erode the credibility of the Supreme Court is a silver line in the history of judiciary.
The judges who raised the criticism are, in addition to being members of the collegium, those with a reputation for scrupulous precision in judgements and integrity too. Parliament should be willing to listen to the issues they raised and to introduce fundamental reforms in India's justice system. Such reforms should aim at democratization, ensuring transparency, commitment to justice and freedom from external influence. The very premise that judges and court verdicts are beyond critical review has to be erased. The most recent evidence of the politics of judges influencing verdicts was the SC judgments in the suit related to national anthem. For that very reason opportunities should be open for analysis of judgments placed beside the judges, and only then will the democratization of judiciary become a reality.
A political consciousness that desanctifies courts, accepts verdicts legally and enforces them, has to be created. Decay sets in courtrooms when they take refuge under the concept of contempt of court and evade social audit. One of the chief criticisms from different quarters against India's justice delivery system revolves around its democratization. In the current scenario, the demand to be strongly raised is that parliament should bring in comprehensive legislation to achieve such democratisation. But unfortunately, the main defendant related to the issue of the deviations raised by the senior judges of SC, is the ruling party at the Centre. Therefore, the fundamental crisis faced by Indian democracy emanates from to demand such a legislation from a parliament which is dominated by that party.