New Delhi: Controversies plaguing the apex court since last year's unprecedented press conference by four senior most judges came to fore once again with the Supreme Court on Thursday observing, "truth of last year has not come out till now, people of the country need to know the truth".
On January 12, 2018, the then four senior most judges -- Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph of the apex court -- had mounted a virtual revolt against the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra by holding a press conference to list a litany of allegations including the assigning of cases in the top court and saying that there were certain issues afflicting the country's highest court.
A lawyer, who was present during the hearing Thursday but wished not to be named, said that a remark by Justice Arun Mishra that the Supreme Court cannot be remote controlled by anyone reminded of the reported statement by Justice Kurian after his retirement that then CJI Dipak Misra was being remote controlled from outside.
The advocate was referring to the statement made by Justice Mishra during the hearing in which he said: "It is not only our institution but your institution also. The way this institution is being treated in last few years we must say that we will not survive if this will happen.
"If the institution is targeted you will also not survive. Do the rich and powerful of this country think that they can remote control the Supreme Court. We don't think that Supreme Court can be remote controlled by anything on earth, whether money power or political power."
Among the allegations, the four judges had also raised the issue of allocating the matter related to the death of Judge BH Loya to a bench headed by junior judge.
A special bench, also comprising Justices R F Nariman and Deepak Gupta, which ordered probe by one man panel of former apex court judge Justice A K Patnaik to look into the sensational claims by a lawyer that there was a larger conspiracy to frame Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in sexual harassment allegations, expressed "anguish" over the systematic attack on judiciary.
The bench said, "The way this institution is treated in last few years we must say that we will not survive if this will happen.There is a systematic attack, systematic game to malign this institution."
"There are lot of allegations floating in the air in this country. These allegations needed to be investigated ... What happens to the truth. The truth of even last year has not come out. People of this country need to know the truth. This is going on and this has to stop, " the bench said in an apparent reference to the January 12, 2018 press conference by the judges of the apex court at the residence of Justice (retd) Chelameswar.
Besides journalists, senior advocate Indira Jaising, who argued on Thursday, was also present during that press conference and she had also asked questions with the four judges, three of whom are now retired.
Justice Mishra on Thursday said that he was not commenting on any particular issue but the time has come when bar and judges rise to the occasion and tell the rich and powerful that they cannot control the judiciary as it amounted to "playing with fire".
"The time has come when we have to rise and tell the rich and powerful that you can't do this. You are playing with fire. We don't want to take names but letters are written in pending matters and books are printed. These are people for whom senior advocates are appearing. Whenever big persons are involved, this happens in this court", said Justice Mishra.
The bench said that money power is being used to influence the registry and "when we take action...you malign us and the institution".
After the allegations of sexual harassment cropped up against Justice Gogoi, who also sat on the bench with Justices Mishra and Sanjiv Khanna, an attempt was made to solicit the comments of Justices Chelameswar, Lokur and Kurian Joseph.
However, all three refused to make any comments on the allegations of sexual harassment against the CJI, who himself constituted the bench on April 20 and heard the submission before opting himself out midway of the hearing.
The order on April 20 was signed by Justices Mishra and Khanna.