The unprecedented press conference that saw four sitting Supreme Court judges publicly voice their concerns over the administrative functioning of the apex court under CJI Dipak Misra has taken the legal and political fraternity by surprise. A number of politicians, lawyers and ex-judges have reacted to the controversy. In a seven-page letter, the four judges – Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Bhimarao Lokur and Kurian Joseph – said that “everything is not right” in Supreme Court’s functioning. While the government has distanced itself from the controversy, opposition parties have expressed concerns over the issue. Congress, tweeting from its official Twitter handle, has went on to say that democracy was in “danger”, while the CPI(M) called for a thorough probe. “We are very concerned to hear 4 judges of the Supreme Court expressed concerns about the functioning of the Supreme Court. #DemocracyInDanger, (sic)” the Congress said on its official Twitter handle.
Here’s how the various politicians have reacted:
– Sitaram Yechury, general secretary, CPI(M): Sitaram Yechury has said a thorough investigation was required to understand how the independence and integrity of the judiciary was getting “affected”, after the judges said many “less than desirable” things had taken place in the apex court. “This merits a thorough, proper investigation and understanding of how independence and integrity of judiciary is being interfered or is being affected, which is impermissible in a secular democratic republic. It is necessary for all three wings of our democracy– the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary–to ensure that whatever has been raised is corrected,” he said.
– Ashwani Kumar, former Union law minister and Congress leader: Kumar said that it was a “sad day” in the history of India that judges were “compelled” to bring in the public domain the happenings in the top court. “The expressed and implicit anguish in the exceptional and extraordinary step taken by the judges has a message in itself. A time has come for the nation to debate the larger issues that squarely arise from the communication released by the judges to the press. I hope that the honourable CJI and all those concerned will take urgent remedial measures,” the Congress leader said.
– D Raja, CPI: “Have known him for a long time. When I came to know of the extraordinary step taken by and other judges, I thought must meet him. Not giving it political colour. These are concerns for everybody, it’s about future of country and democracy.” Notably, Raja’s meeting with Justice Chelameswar soon after the press conference had raised a few eyebrows.
– Hansraj Bhardwaj, former Union Law Minister: “It’s the loss of prestige of the entire institution. If you lose public’s trust what remains? Judiciary must remain pillar of democracy. It’s the responsibility of Law Minister to see how it functions.”
– Subramanian Swamy, BJP: “We can’t criticize them, they are men of great integrity and have sacrificed a lot of their legal career, where they could’ve made money as senior counsels. We must respect them. PM must ensure that the 4 judges and CJI, in fact whole SC come to one opinion and proceed further.”
– Prashant Bhushan, lawyer and politician: “It is certainly a very serious development which has cast a huge shadow on the Chief Justice. Somebody had to confront the situation, where CJ is blatantly misusing his powers, hence the unprecedented step.”
Reactions from legal fraternity
Santosh Hegde, former SC judge and Solicitor General of India: “I feel very sad about it. I am sure they (the four judges) are hurt with many things which ought not to have happened. But for heaven’s sake, what they did was wrong. I don’t think this damage can ever be repaired,” he said.
– Shrihari Aney, former Attorney General: “These are very senior judges and come only after CJI. They wouldn’t have taken the step without thinking. If it has fallen upon them to take action, it’s up to us to understand what led to that.”
– Justice (Retd) AK Ganguly: “Feel very disturbed over the issue, this should not have happened, but it has and there might be strong reasons for them. Consequence would be it would create apprehensions in minds of people.”
– Mukul Mudgal, retired Delhi HC judge: “There must be some serious reason that they were left with no other option but to hold a press conference. But what connection (Justice) Loya has with this? I know nothing about and I don’t want to make comments about any political matter.”
– Indira Jaising, Supreme Court advocate: “I think it’s a historic Press Conference. It was very well done. I think we, the people of India, have a right to know what is going on within the judiciary and I welcome this.”
– PB Sawant, former Supreme Court judge: “Judges had to come before media and take this unprecedented step. This means that there is a serious dispute, either with Chief Justice of India (CJI) or some internal dispute.”
– Ujjwal Nikam, senior lawyer: “This is a black day for Judiciary. Today’s press conference would cause a bad precedent. From now on every common man could look at all judicial order with suspicion. Every judgement will be questioned.”
– Justice R.S. Sodhi (Retd): “I think all 4 judges should be impeached, they have no business to sit there and deliver verdicts anymore. This trade unionism is wrong. Democracy in danger is not for them to say, we have parliament, courts, police functioning.”
– KTS Tulsi, advocate SC: “It’s quite shocking. There must have been compelling reasons for the senior-most judges to have adopted this course of action. One could see pain on their faces while they were speaking.”