This is for the first time in the history of Indian judiciary four senior most Supreme Court judges have come out in the open about the ‘malady’ the system must have been living with. The Friday press conference headed by none else than Justice J Chelameswar, author of the sole dissenting judgment in the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) case that revived the collegium system and a whistleblower who has called out the collegium for tardy functioning in the past accompanied by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who is in line to be chief justice under the seniority principle when CJI Misra retires. Judiciary considered being the most sacrosanct pillar of the democracy compared to the three others i.e. executive, press and police has never seen such a situation where the members of the judiciary going to public with their own ire. Public was always at the receiving end of justice from judiciary. Still a situation emerging over alleged arbitrary functioning by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra means all is not well with justice deliverance system in the country. The episode would remain a dark chapter in the history of Indian judiciary. In their seven-page letter and press conference, the four judges were careful in their choice of words. Nevertheless by expressing their frustration with the CJI and approaching the court of public opinion they indicate SC’s failure to evolve due procedure to mediate and resolve internal disagreements. Considering that SC has vested its collegium with power to select judges it should naturally follow that the chief justice would consult and evolve consensus when collegium members have differing views. A bone of contention is reportedly the bench assigned to hear petitions demanding a probe into the mysterious death of CBI Judge Brijgopal Loya. CJI Misra has evidently failed to resolve the dispute on bench assignment to the collegium’s satisfaction. This could represent a breakdown in the functioning of the collegium. The judges’ unhappiness with CJI Misra and past chief justices for selective assignment of cases of far-reaching consequences to preferred benches “without any rational basis” is a matter of institutional integrity and following due procedure. Whatever the malady in the system it has to be resolved within if the collegium system has to be saved.
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