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.

SC wasn’t going in right direction under CJI Dipak Misra says Justice Kurien Joseph

NEW DELHI: Justice Kurian Joseph,  said that the Apex Court was not functioning in the right direction under Former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra who was being controlled from outside and was allocating cases to judges with political bias. It had become a question of the independence of the judiciary, protection of democracy and the institution of the Supreme Court, he said.

Justice Joseph was one of the four Supreme Court judges who held a  press conference on January 12. It was for the first time in the history of Indian judiciary that such a step was taken. Along with him Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan B Lokur decided to go public against the functioning of the judiciary under Misra.  They had alleged faulty “assignment of cases” and “sensitive cases being allotted to Judges low down on the top court’s hierarchy by Justice Misra.

Justice Joseph said this during a media talk with reporters after he retired as a Supreme Court judge on Friday.

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”.

Supreme Court seeks reply on plea for CBI probe into Junaid lynching case

The Supreme Court today sought the Centre’s response on a plea seeking a CBI probe into the Ballabhgarh mob lynching case in which 17-year-old Junaid Khan was stabbed to death on a train in June last year.

A bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and M M Shantanagoudar also stayed the trial in the case till further orders.

Junaid’s father has challenged the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s November 27 last year order, refusing a CBI probe into the matter, and sought that the accused be booked under offences of hate crimes.

Junaid’s father Jalaluddin, through his counsel, had filed the petition on October 26 last year in the high court, seeking a probe by an independent agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Junaid lynching case.

He had also demanded a stay on the trial in a Faridabad court in connection with the killing of Junaid.

Junaid, who had boarded a Mathura-bound train from Delhi, was allegedly stabbed to death when he, along with his brothers and cousins, was returning home to Khandawali village after shopping for Eid in Delhi in June.

His body was dumped near Asaoti village in Faridabad district.

Judges row: SC to soon make public work allocation system

Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has examined suggestions from stakeholders to bring transparency in allocation of sensitive PILs to judges and is likely to bring in the public domain soon the system he is going to adopt for it, sources close to him said today.

They said that the listing of two petitions demanding an independent probe into the death of CBI special judge B H Loya before a bench headed by the CJI manifests that all issues, including allocation of cases, raised by the four seniormost judges in their controversial January 12 press conference, are being considered.

The Loya case petitions will come up for hearing tomorrow.

The sources said that Justice Misra has held deliberations with fellow judges and also taken into account the suggestions put forth by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and a clear-cut roster system is likely to be followed in the apex court for allocation of cases.

“The apex court registry is very likely to upload on its website the decision of the CJI on allocation of matters. The system will be brought in the public domain as to who will hear what categories of cases,” a highly placed source told PTI.

When contacted, SCBA President Vikas Singh said there was a demand from the bar to follow the roster system of allocation of work prevalent in the Delhi High Court.

“We are quite hopeful that the CJI in all likelihood is going to accept our suggestions and all misunderstanding that has come out in the open after the press conference of the four judges can be resolved,” Singh said.

He said that a system for allocation of cases identical to that in the Delhi High Court is followed in the Bombay High Court.

During the press conference, the four judges — justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — had raised various issues, including the allocation of important and sensitive PILs, and questioned the manner in which the CJI was allocating them to a particular bench.

The PILs in the Loya case was one of them which was being heard by a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra who later recused himself from it.

The list of the top court’s business for January 22 had on January 19 shown that it has been referred to an appropriate bench and late in the evening the website showed that it will be heard by a bench headed by the CJI.

Sources said that some of the judges who are the future CJIs — justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, U U Lalit and D Y Chandrachud — have been holding parleys with the CJI to resolve the crisis that hit the judiciary after the January 12 presser.

They also said that the judges who have been having talks with the CJI for bringing the house in order were also not happy that the four seniormost judges went public with their grievances.

After January 18, there was no meeting between the CJI and the four judges as Justice Chelameswar was out of the national capital on a scheduled visit to Chennai and Bengaluru.

There is a likelihood that the CJI and the four judges would meet on Monday before the court commences hearings, the sources said.

BCI panel discusses SC crisis with Justice Arun Mishra

A Bar Council of India panel today met Supreme Court judge Arun Mishra and discussed the crisis in the apex judiciary.

Justice Mishra was assigned by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra a PIL relating to the death of special CBI judge B H Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.

Four senior Supreme Court judges — J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — had on Friday mounted a virtual revolt against the CJI at a press meet here, raising questions on “selective” case allocation and certain judicial orders, sending shockwaves across the judiciary and polity.

The panel led by BCI chairman Manan Kumar Mishra arrived at Justice Mishra’s residence at around 2 p.m. and discussed the crisis during a short meeting.

The BCI delegation had earlier met justices Chelameswar, R K Agrawal, A M Khanwilkar and other top court judges and is likely to meet Chief Justice Misra.

Two top court judges — justices S A Bobde and L Nageswara Rao — also met Justice Chelameswar, who had led the four judges in the unprecedented press conference on Friday at his official residence here, sources said.

The meeting of these judges took place soon after the seven-member delegation of the BCI, the regulatory body of lawyers, met Justice Chelameswar at his residence to discuss the crisis that has hit the judiciary.

A BCI source said that the BCI delegation’s meetings with the judges will be on till late in the evening as some of the judges are away from Delhi.

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 Questions Centre for Opposing French Woman’s Release

The Supreme Court has questioned the government’s stand of opposing the release of a French woman facing extradition on charges of involvement in the assassination of a Chilean senator in 1991.

A bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph quizzed the Centre over its contradictory stand of allowing two Italian marines, accused of shooting dead two Kerala fishermen, to be released while opposing release of the French woman.

“What problem you have if the French government is giving its undertaking? You allow the foreign nationals (Italian marines) in the other case to go back. If you respect Italian government then you should also respect French government,” the bench observed.

The observation came after Additional Solicitor General PS Patwalia, appearing for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), opposed the release of 56-year-old French national Marie Emmanuelle Verhoeven.

Patwalia contended that Chilean authorities have written to India to detain her so that she can be extradited. The apex court granted a week’s time to the Ministry after the ASG sought time to get instructions with regard to the release of the French woman and posted the matter for next hearing on November 16.

Verhoeven is alleged to have participated in the assassination of Chilean senator Jaime Guzman Errazuriz on April 1, 1991. She has denied the charge and claimed that she was falsely implicated due to her participation in special human rights missions.

Verhoeven was arrested on February 16 in Uttar Pradesh while she was entering India from Nepal and has been in judicial custody ever since. Extradition proceedings were initiated against Verhoeven on the request of the Chilean government, which had alleged that she had participated in a conspiracy to commit a terror attack which had led to the death of Errazuriz.

In her plea opposing the extradition proceedings, she has contended that the treaty was ultra vires to the Constitution

Coal scam: SC-appointed team seeks former CBI chief Ranjit Sinha’s visitors’ diary

The Supreme court had on September 14, entrusted M L Sharma with the power to summon any person in his inquiry against Sinha, accused of ranjitscuttling probe in the coal block scam as the agency’s chief.

The apex court-appointed probe team led by ex-CBI Special Director M L Sharma today moved the Supreme Court seeking a copy of original visitors’ diary having names of persons who had visited the official residence of Ranjit Sinha, the then Director of CBI.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur, which has been hearing matters related to coal blocks allocation scam, said “we realise that this document is important.”

The bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri, referred the plea of the special probe team to another bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu on the ground that the visitors diary, submitted by advocate Prashant Bhushan, has been kept in a sealed cover in pursuance of the order of that court.

The bench headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) has been monitoring cases relating to the 2G scam and had earlier ordered that the visitors diary, given by Bhushan on behalf of NGO Common Cause, be kept in a sealed cover.

Now the plea filed by the special probe team would be heard by the CJI’s bench on Monday.

The diary allegedly contains names of persons, including those who are facing court cases in the 2G and coalgate scams, who had visited official residence of Ranjit Sinha during his tenure as the CBI Director.

The apex court had on September 14, entrusted M L Sharma with the power to summon any person in his inquiry against Sinha, accused of scuttling probe in the coal block scam as the agency’s chief.

It had also ordered that Sharma will have access to all documents required by him for his probe and asked him to submit the report of inquiry in three months.

Sharma, who had emerged as the first choice of the apex court, had given his consent to assist the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in its probe against Sinha.

The court had on September 7 said the scope of inquiry was limited to recording the statements of persons accused in the coal allocation scam to draw an inference whether the probe into the cases were in any way influenced or interfered with, as suggested by the CVC.

PTI