A group of 21 retired judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts on Sunday wrote a letter to Chief Justice DY Chandrachud emphasising the need to protect India’s judiciary from “unwarranted pressures”.

The former justices alleged that the judiciary is facing “escalating attempts by certain factions” to undermine it “through calculated pressure, misinformation and public disparagement”.

These factions are allegedly motivated by narrow political interests and personal gains and hope to erode public confidence in the courts, said the letter.

The group, including former judges Deepak Verma, Krishna Murari, Dinesh Maheshwari and MR Shah, did not cite any specific instance that prompted them to write the letter. This comes amid allegations of judicial coercion by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Opposition parties against each other.

The group also alleged that there have been “clear attempts to sway judicial processes by casting aspersions on the integrity of courts and judges”.

“Such actions not only disrespect the sanctity of our judiciary but also pose a direct challenge to the principles of fairness and impartiality,” the letter said.

The strategy and “insidious methods” employed by those behind these actions range from propagating unproven theories to malign the judiciary, to overt and covert attempts to directly influence judicial outcomes, the former judges claimed.

Such actions are “particularly pronounced in the cases and causes of social, economic and political significance, including the cases involving certain individuals”, the letter said.

The former judges said they were particularly concerned about the manner in which misinformation is spread to orchestrate public sentiment against the judiciary. “The practice of selectively praising judicial decisions that align with one’s views while vehemently criticising those that do not undermines the very essence of judicial review and the rule of law,” they said.

The former judges urged the judiciary, led by the Supreme Court, to take steps to fortify itself against such pressures and ensure its autonomy. “It is imperative that the judiciary remains a pillar of democracy, immune to the whims and fancies of transient political interests,” the letter concluded.

On March 28, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared on social media an open letter by a group of over 600 lawyers addressed to Chief Justice DY Chandrachud alleging that a “vested interest group” is trying to put pressure on the judiciary and undermine public faith in the courts.

Modi’s post claimed that “to browbeat and bully others is vintage Congress culture”.

Part of ‘orchestrated campaign’

Reacting to the letter by the judges, the Congress on Monday alleged that the greatest threat to judiciary comes from the ruling BJP, reported PTI.

“Please see the fourth name on that list and it will give away the whole objective, background and authorship of the letter,” said Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh, referring to former Justice MR Shah.

Shah in 2021 described Modi as “our most popular, loved, vibrant and visionary leader” during a function to celebrate diamond jubilee of the Gujarat High Court.

Ramesh said that the letter was part of an “orchestrated campaign of the prime minister to threaten, browbeat and intimidate a judiciary that has flexed its muscles in recent months”.

“A judiciary that has called out India's biggest corruption scandal, the electoral bonds scam...A Supreme Court which said there is a breakdown of constitutional machinery in Manipur, that is the target,” said Ramesh.

He said that the letter by the 21 judges has to be seen along with the letter of “600 Modi-friendly lawyers”.

Also read: Why Modi’s decision share open letter by 600 lawyers about alleged pressure on SC is problematic