Four days have gone by since four senior judges of the Supreme Court openly dissented against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on January 12. But the lack of any action on the points raised has “profoundly disappointed” the judges, people close to one of them said.
On January 12, Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Kurien Joseph and Madan Lokur, held an unprecedented press conference to express their displeasure that important cases were not being allotted to senior judges. However, people close to the judges said the office of the Chief Justice of India has not reached out to them in “any concrete manner” to discuss the problems.
“The judges are disappointed that there has been no urgency in dealing with the concerns raised,” this person said, on condition of anonymity.
On Monday, Bar Council India chairman Manan Kumar Mishra claimed that the controversy has been “laid to rest”. Attorney General KK Venugopal also expressed similar views.
However, going by accounts of people in the judges’ offices, it is clear that the controversy is a long way from being fully settled.
People familiar with the situation said that the four judges were hoping for more support from their fellow Supreme Court judges. But most other members of the Bench have taken a cautious stand. On Monday, when the full court met for tea in the morning before the proceedings, there were heated exchanges, people familiar with the situation said.
According to one Supreme Court official, a judge, who has been handling important cases on benches assigned by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, spoke to the senior judges directly during the tea meeting.
“It was a very emotional few minutes,” court officials said. This led to a minor delay in the start of the court proceedings on Monday.
On Monday, it became increasingly clear that crucial cases needing Constitution benches, including those on Section 377 of IPC, adultery and Sabarimala, are likely to be handled by a five-member bench headed by the Chief Justice. The four judges who dissented openly are not part of the bench that will sit from Wednesday to hear the matters.
However, senior lawyers pointed out that there was still room for reallocation. “Just because only one Constitution bench is sitting on Wednesday does not mean it would take up all the major matters at one go,” a lawyer said. If the same bench handles all these matters, it would have to handle 13 Constitution cases, which would be heavy workload.
The other key matter is a petition seeking an investigation into the death of Maharashtra special CBI judge Brijgopal Loya, who was handling the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case in which Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah had been accused. It will be heard by a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra on Tuesday. There was speculation that this case might be re-allotted, as Justice Mohan Shantanagouder, the other judge on the bench, was on leave on Monday and the bench did not sit for hearings.
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