The former chief justice RM Lodha on Tuesday called the current situation in the Supreme Court was disastrous, and warned that the judicial system would be in chaos if High Courts decide to treat the crisis in the top court as a precedent, The Indian Express reported.
“It is high time the collegiality is restored,” Lodha said. “The judges with the different approaches and viewpoints must find a common ground – that takes the SC [Supreme Court] forward and that maintains the independence of the judiciary.”
Lodha said that the independence of judiciary was non-negotiable and urged Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra to show statesmanship. Lodha was speaking at the launch of former minister and journalist Arun Shourie’s latest book Anita Gets Bail in New Delhi.
The former judge said that an independent judiciary was required for a democracy to thrive. “And that must come from the top,” he added. “It is true that in Supreme Court there are no junior judges and senior judges. But then senior judges also must get their due. SC is no place for personal grudges.”
Lodha said that the chief justice was the “Master of the Roster”, but that did not give him the authority to do what he wants. “It is the prerogative of the chief justice to be fair and generous in the distribution of the cases,” he pointed out. “But also to appear to be so…allocation of cases in the SC has to be fair and in the interest of the institution.”
Former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court AP Shah also spoke at the event. He criticised the Supreme Court’s judgement in the BH Loya case, saying it was “utterly wrong and jurisprudentially incorrect”. He felt that the top court acted like “a court of appeal and granted some sort of an acquittal without the benefit of the judgement of the trial court”.
At the time of his death on December 1, 2014, Judge Loya was handling the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, in which current Bharatiya Janata Party National President Amit Shah was an accused. He was later discharged in the case. Suspicions were raised on whether Loya’s death was natural after The Caravan published a report in November 2017, in which members of Loya’s family raised a number of questions around the circumstances of his death and claimed that he had been under pressure at the time.