Outgoing CJI Gogoi declines requests for interviews and lauds media for maturity in trying times of Supreme Court.

Outgoing Chief Justice India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi on Friday expressed his inability to have one-to-one interview with scribes and lauded the press for its “maturity” and “character” in preventing “canards and falsehood” in “trying times” of the judiciary.

Justice Gogoi, the 46th CJI and the first from a north-eastern state, said it was not the requirement of the Supreme Court that judges “reach out to our citizenry through the press”.

“Such outreach (to the press) ought to be symbolic of an extraordinary situation demanding an exception to the norm,” said Justice Gogoi who would demit office on November 17, a Sunday.

Justice Gogoi and three other senior most apex court judges — Justices J Chelameswar, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph had held an unprecedented press conference on January 12, 2018 alleging that the administration and allocation of cases in the apex court, then headed by the then CJI Dipak Misra, was “not in order”.

In a three-page common letter to journalists, the CJI declined the request for interviews and said: “I would not be able to meet your request for a one-to-one meet.”

The letter said: “I am keen that you would appreciate that the ordinary freedoms are finely balanced in our institutional functioning – while you have the Bar whose members can exercise their freedom of speech to the extent of even pushing the boundaries of such freedom, the bench requires its judges to maintain silence, while exercising their freedoms.

“This is not to say that Judges do not speak. They do speak, but only out of functional necessity, and no more. Bitter truth must remain in memory.”

The CJI lauded the role of media for its reportage during the “trying times” of the apex judicial institution.

“Good press is also a parameter amongst others that is known to be indicative of our institutional health. In such view, I do wish to put on record that by and large, the press corps has been kind to my office as well as to our institution during my tenure at the helm of the institution.

“Even during trying times. When our institution was keeping an ambush or two at bay, most members of the press displayed maturity and character ad exercised exceptional discretion to prevent canards and falsehood from clogging the news space,” the letter said.

Justice Gogoi said that as a public functionary, who was entrusted with onerous Constitutional duties to perform, the idea of “courting the press” never came as a choice for him in the interest of the institution.

“I chose to belong to an institution whose strength lay in public confidence and trust earned not through good press, but through our work as Judges on the bench.

“In fact, our work-places are, by our functional necessity, required to be public places as justice is ordained to be delivered in presence of ordinary citizens to ensure that it is never far removed from them. In that view, our institutional connect and interface with the citizenry is proximate,” the letter said.

Though the CJI is officially retiring on November 17, a Sunday, Friday was his last working day.

Justice Chelameswar shares dias with CJI on his last working day

Justice J Chelameswar, the senior most judge of the Supreme Court who had virtually revolted by holding a controversial January 12 presser, today shared dais with Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on his last working day.

Justice Chelameswar, who retires on June 22, sat in a bench headed by the CJI along with Justice D Y Chandrachud as today was the last working day before the supreme court goes for the long summer vacation.

It is the custom in the top court that a retiring judge, on his last day, is given the honour of sitting with the CJI in the majestic Court no 1.

Justice Chelameswar, who has been at loggerheads with the CJI over the functioning of the apex court including the allocation of sensitive cases and on recommendation of judges for appointment to higher judiciary, maintained the tradition of sharing the dias with the CJI.

The judge ended the speculation among the legal circles that he would not be a part of the bench. The speculation had gained momentum after he had refused the invite of the Supreme Court Bar Association which was preparing a farewell function for him today.

A large number of people, besides lawyers and litigants, thronged the court room this morning. There was no mentioning in the court no 1, which is usually flooded with cases and where 11 matters were listed for today.

The bench sat for a brief period and rose for the day at 11:15 AM.

Senior Advocate Rajiv Dutta, advocates Prashant Bhushan and Gopal Sankaranarayanan gave short farewell speeches to Justice Chelameswar.

Bhushan thanked Justice Chelameswar for “upholding democracy” and said,”On behalf of the Bar, I would like to say that it was an honour to have appeared before you. Future generations will remember your contribution to democracy and to the country.”

Dutta thanked the judge for “upholding the ideals of the institution”, while Sankaranarayanan expressed his gratitude towards him for the grace he has shown towards junior members of the Bar and said this would always be remembered and appreciated.

Justice Chelameswar left the courtroom with folded hands.

He had earlier declined an invitation from the SCBA for his farewell function citing personal reasons.

The judge also told the members of the bar that he had not accepted a farewell earlier when he was moving out of the Andhra Pradesh High Court to another high court.

CJI first among equals with power to allocate cases: Supreme Court

The Chief Justice of India (CJI) is the “first among equals” and occupies a unique position having the “exclusive prerogative” to allocate cases and set up benches to hear cases, the Supreme Court ruled today.

The verdict assumed significance as it came in the backdrop of the January 12 unprecedented press conference of senior-most judges including Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph raising the issue of improper allocation of cases.

Significantly, senior advocate and former law minister Shanti Bhushan has also recently filed a PIL seeking clarification on the administrative authority of the CJI as the ‘master of roster’ and laying down of principles in preparing the roster for allocation of cases to different benches.

“In his capacity as a Judge, the CJI is primus inter pares: the first among equals. In the discharge of his other functions, the Chief Justice of India occupies a position which is sui generis (unique)…Article 146 reaffirms the position of the Chief Justice of India as the head of the institution.

“From an institutional perspective the Chief Justice is placed at the helm of the Supreme Court. In the allocation of cases and the constitution of benches, the Chief Justice has an exclusive prerogative,” a bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said.

Dismissing a PIL filed by Uttar Pradesh-based lawyer Ashok Pande seeking evolution of a “set procedure” to constitute benches and allot cases to different benches, the bench said that as a “repository of constitutional trust, the Chief Justice is an institution in himself”.

“The authority which is conferred upon the CJI, it must be remembered, is vested in a high constitutional functionary. The authority is entrusted to the Chief Justice because such an entrustment of functions is necessary for the efficient transaction of the administrative and judicial work of the Court.

“The ultimate purpose behind the entrustment of authority to the Chief Justice is to ensure that the Supreme Court is able to fulfil and discharge the constitutional obligations which govern and provide the rationale for its existence,” it said.

The entrustment of functions to the CJI as the head of the institution, is with the purpose of securing the position of the Supreme Court as an independent safeguard for the preservation of personal liberty, it said, adding “there cannot be a presumption of mistrust. The oath of office demands nothing less.”

Justice Chandrachud, writing the judgement for the bench, referred to the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 and said they were notified with the approval of the President.

“Rule 1 indicates that it is the Chief Justice who is to nominate the Judges who would constitute a Bench to hear a cause, appeal or matter. Where a reference has been made to a larger Bench, the Bench making the reference is required to refer the matter to the Chief Justice who will constitute a Bench,” the judgement said.

The bench also referred to a recent five-judge bench verdict that had set aside an order passed by a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar ordering setting up of a larger bench, comprising five senior most judges, to hear a PIL of NGO Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms relating to alleged medical admisson scam.

It was held that once the Chief Justice is stated to be the Master of the Roster, he alone had the prerogative to constitute benches and neither a two-Judge, nor a three-Judge bench can allocate the matter to themselves or direct the constitution of a bench.

Referring to the binding order of the larger bench, the court, in its 16-page judgement, said the relief sought was “manifestly misconceived”.

“It is a well settled principle that no mandamus can issue to direct a body or authority which is vested with a rule making power to make rules or to make them in a particular manner. The Supreme Court has been authorised under Article 145 to frame rules of procedure…,” it said, adding that such authority lies “exclusively in the domain” of the CJI.

Besides setting up norms for allocaiton of cases, the PIL had sought a direction to the apex court for making a rule to the effect that “a three judge Bench in the Court of the Chief Justice should consist of the Chief Justice and the two senior-most judges while a Constitution Bench should consist of five senior-most judges (or three senior-most’ judges and two juniormost’ judges).”

It had also sought “bifurcation of apex court into a ‘Supreme criminal court’, with similar divisions to hear PIL, tax, service, land disputes and miscellaneous matters”.

The bench rejected these prayers also by terming them as “misconceived”.

SC Collegium recommends 4 permanent judges for Allahabad High Court

The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended appointment of four additional judges of the Allahabad High Court as permanent judges.

The collegium, in its resolution, has also said that the recommendation for appointment of Justice Serto be processed expeditiously as his term expires on March 13.

The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended appointment of four additional judges of the Allahabad High Court as permanent judges.

The collegium, comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices J Chelameswar and Ranjan Gogoi, also recommended that one additional judge of the Manipur High Court, at present functioning on transfer in the Gauhati High Court, be made a permanent judge.

The four judges whose names have been recommended are Ashok Kumar, Vivek Chaudhary, Saumitra Dayal Singh and Akhilesh Chandra Sharma.

The name of Justice Songkhupchung Serto of Manipur High Court has been recommended for a permanent judge there.

The collegium, in its resolution, has also said that the recommendation for appointment of Justice Serto be processed expeditiously as his term expires on March 13.

The resolution also clarified that Justice Serto would continue to function in the Gauhati High Court.

The collegium said that the proposal regarding the transfer of another high court judge to Manipur High Court would be considered later.

“We have also taken note of the observations of the Department of Justice made in the file with regard to proposal for transfer of some other high court judge to Manipur High Court in view of depleted strength of judges in that high court.

“The proposal for transfer, in terms of the Memorandum of Procedure, would be considered by the collegium comprising the Chief Justice of India and four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, in due course of time,” the resolution said.

SC crisis: BCI delegation meeting SC judges

A Bar Council of India delegation led by its chairman Manan Kumar Mishra is meeting Supreme Court judges today to discuss the unprecedented crisis that has hit the judiciary.

According to sources, the seven-member delegation has already met some of the judges of the top court and are scheduled to meet remaining judges including Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra during the course of the day.

The BCI had yesterday formed a seven member delegation to meet and discuss with the apex court judges issues arising out of the press conference by the four senior-most judges of the top court.

On January 12, four senior-most judges of the Supreme court — justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — had mounted a virtual revolt against the CJI at a press meet in Delhi on Friday raising litany of problems including assignment of cases.

Four senior judges say situation in SC “not in order”

 In an unprecedented move, four senior most judges of the Supreme Court today called a press conference and said the situation in the top court was “not in order” and many “less than desirable” things have taken place.

Unless this institution is preserved, “democracy will not survive in this country,” the four judges said.

Justice J Chelameswar, the second senior judge after the Chief Justice of India, said “sometimes administration of the Supreme Court is not in order and many things which are less than desirable have happened in the last few months”.

Chelameswar, who was accompanied by Justices Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph at the press conference, said they had met CJI Dipak Misra this morning and “raised issues affecting the institution”.

Soon after the press conference by the four senior-most judges, the CJI called Attorney General K K Venugopal for a meeting, court sources said.

At the presser held at his house, Justice J Chelameswar said “unless this institution is preserved, democracy will not survive in this country” and added it was “extremely painful” to hold press conference in such a manner.

He said the four judges had written a letter to CJI Dipak Misra some time back, raising important issues.

But all of them “failed to persuade CJI that certain things are not in order and therefore you should take remedial measures. Unfortunately our efforts failed.

“And all four of us are convinced that democracy is at stake and many things have happened in recent past,” he said.

Asked what these issues were, he said they included the “allocation of cases by CJI”. The remarks assume significance as the Supreme Court today took up for consideration the issue of alleged mysterious death of special CBI judge B H Loya, who was hearing the sensitive Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.

Justice Chelameswar said “we owe a responsibility to the institution and the nation. Our efforts have failed in convincing CJI to take steps to protect the institution.”

“This is an extraordinary event in the history of any nation, more particularly this nation and an extraordinary event in the institution of judiciary … It is with no pleasure that we are compelled to call this press conference.

“But sometimes administration of the Supreme Court is not in order and many things which are less than desirable have happened in the last few months.”

All the judges rubbished questions on whether they have broken ranks, with Justice Gogoi saying “nobody is breaking the rank and it is a discharge of debt to the nation, which we have done.” Justice Gogoi would be succeeding the incumbent CJI in October this year.

Asked whether they wanted the Chief Justice to be impeached, Justice Chelameswar said “don’t try to put words in our mouth”.

The four judges, in their seven-page letter to the CJI, said “It is too well settled in the jurisprudence of this country that the chief justice is only first amongst the equals — nothing more or nothing less.”

The letter reads, “It is with great anguish and concern that we have thought it proper to address this letter to you so as to highlight certain judicial orders passed by this court which has adversely affected the overall functioning of the justice delivering system and the independence of the high courts besides impacting the administrative functioning of the office of the Chief Justice of India.”

“There have been instances where cases having far reaching consequences for the nation and the institution have been assigned by the chief justices of this court selectively to the benches ‘of their preference’ without any rationale basis for such assignment. This must be guarded against at all costs,” it said.

Source : PTI

SC collegium finalises MoP for higher judiciary appointments

The Supreme Court collegium has finalised the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP) for appointment of judges in the higher judiciary resolving a year-long impasse with the executive by agreeing to include the contentious clause of national security in selection of judges.

Sources said the collegium, comprising five seniormost judges of the apex court, had met recently and agreed to the national security clause which the Centre had insisted as one of the necessary criteria for appointment of judges to the higher judiciary.

The collegium consisting of Chief Justice J S Khehar and four seniormost judges — Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and M B Lokur — has agreed with the Centre on the national security clause provided the specific reasons for use of the clause are well documented or recorded.

The national security clause, which gave veto power to the government to reject a name recommended by the collegium, and the issue of setting up of secretariats in the apex court and all the high courts, were among the two key clauses in the MoP on which the Centre and the judiciary had differences for more than a year.

The sources said that after deliberations, the collegium has also agreed on setting up secretariats in the apex court and the high courts to collate data about judges and assist in the selection procedure for their appointment to the higher judiciary.

In October 2015, a Constitution bench headed by Justice J S Khehar had struck down the NJAC Act passed by Parliament and had directed the Centre to frame a new MoP in consultation with the chief justice of India.

After holding the Constitution (Ninety-ninth Amendment) Act, 2014 and the NJAC Act, 2014, as unconstitutional and void, the apex court in its separate order had decided to consider the incorporation of additional appropriate measures, if any, for an improved working of the collegium system.

Striking a dissent note, Justice J Chelameswar who was part of the five-judge Constitution bench which heard the NJAC case, had said that the collegium system for the appointment of judges is “opaque” and needs “transparency”.

He had said that “primacy of the judiciary” in the appointment of judges is a basic feature of the Constitution and “is empirically flawed.”

Last month, Chief Justice J S Khehar had indicated that the Supreme court may come out with the MoP for the appointment of judges for the higher judiciary by the end of the month.

“We will finalise the MoP may be within this month,” he had said while dismissing a plea seeking transparency in the appointment of judges for higher courts.

Source:PTI

‘Star campaigner’s air travel expense outside constituency not

air travel reportExpenses incurred by a “star campaigner” on travelling by air outside his constituency cannot be computed as his personal election expenditure as a candidate, the Supreme Court has said.

A bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar ordered deletion of a paragraph, regarding expenses, in an election plea filed against an MLA in Madhya Pradesh on the ground that being a star campaigner, he was required to campaign for the political party outside his constituency also.

The names of stars campaigners are communicated to the Election Commission by the party.

As per section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 the expenditure incurred by a star campaigner on account of travel for propagating the programme of the political party is excluded for the purpose of computing the expenditure incurred by him.

The verdict came on the petition filed by Congress MLA from Madhya Pradesh and son of late Union minister Arjun Singh, Ajay Arjun Singh.

The petitioner, MLA from Churahat Assembly constituency, moved the apex court against the Madhya Pradesh High Court order refusing to dismiss the election petition filed by defeated BJP candidate Sharadendu Tiwari in the 2013 Assembly elections. Singh had won the election by a margin of 19,356 votes.

Tiwari had contended that Singh has not disclosed his actual expenditure which he incurred in connection with a public meeting of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi at the district headquarters, Sidhi on November 20, 2013.

“The specific pleading in the election petition is that the appellant herein used the helicopter on many occasions during the relevant period only between Bhopal and Sidhi, both of which are outside the constituency of the appellant. The admitted fact is that the appellant was one of the star campaigners for the said election for the State of Madhya Pradesh.

“Therefore, he was required to campaign for his political party, not only in his constituency but also in other constituencies of the State. In the absence of any allegation that the appellant used the helicopter for travelling within 76-Churahat constituency for the purpose of campaigning, the expenditure incurred on that account, in our opinion, cannot be included in the election expenditure of the appellant,” the bench also comprising Justice A M Sapre said.

Resolution of election disputes take long periods in India: SC

The resolution of election disputes in this country takes unacceptably long periods in most cases, which “reduces the adjudicatory process into a mockery of justice”, the Supreme Court today said while advocating setting up of benches in high courts to exclusively deal with election petitions.

“We are sad to state that invariably the resolution of election disputes in this country takes unacceptably long periods in most of the cases. Very rarely an election dispute gets resolved during the tenure of the declared candidate reducing the adjudicatory process into a mockery of justice.

“Such delay, coupled with a right of appeal to this Court, makes the whole process of adjudication a task in a good number of cases,” a bench of Justices J Chelameswar and Rohinton Fali Nariman said adding that it was desirable that in each High Court dedicated benches are created by the Chief Justice to deal with the election petitions exclusively.

“Those judges assigned with the adjudication of election petitions preferably may not be burdened with any other work until the adjudication of the election petitions is completed.

“An exercise which may not be difficult especially the class of litigation occurs only once in 5 or 6 years and the number of cases would be very limited. We are conscious of the fact that it is not possible for laying down any absolute rules in this regard.

“Essentially it is for a Chief Justice of the High Court to run administration and devise ways and means for expeditiously disposing of the cases brought before the High Court.

“We only gently remind that the kind of delay in the adjudication of election disputes exposes the High Court’s unpleasant criticism damaging the credibility of the institution, a situation which is certainly required to be avoided at any cost,” the bench said.

The observations came while hearing an appeal of Mohd Akbar who had approached the apex court against repeated adjournments in the Chhattisgarh High Court.

Akbar had challenged the election of one Ashok Sahu in 72-Kawardha Legislative Assembly Constituency on various grounds including the commission of certain corrupt practices.

Govt employee can’t seek promotion after refusing it: SC

A government employee, whose promotion is canceled owing to his refusal to accept it, cannot ask for it at a later stage, the Supreme Court has said.

The apex court set aside the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court which had directed the state government to restore the promotion of one of its employees whose promotion was cancelled after he turned down the offer as he did not want to get transfered to some other place.

“As we find that it is the respondent himself who is responsible for cancellation of the promotion order as he did not join the promoted post, the impugned order of the high court is clearly erroneous and against the law,” a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar said.

The court passed the order on an appeal filed by Madhya Pradesh government challenging the high court order.

The government had submitted that the high court failed to consider that Ramanand Pandey himself sent back the promotion order and continued on his post and approached the court after two years when it cancelled his promotion.

It said that at the time of promotion, Pandey was posted in Bhind district where he remained for almost 15 years and his intention was to stay at that place only.

The apex court, after hearing both sides, quashed the high court order.

“It is clear that he wanted to remain in Bhind district, where he had continued since 1990, as he was ready to go on leave instead of joining the place of transfer. Moreover, for more than two years from the date of cancellation of the order of promotion, the respondent kept totally mum and maintained stoic silence.

“There was not even a semblance of protest as to why his promotion order was cancelled or that he wanted to join the promotion post after the alleged inquiry into the so-called complaint was over. He filed the writ petition on October 24, 2008, i.E. Almost two years after cancellation of his promotion order,” it said.