In a first, four sitting judges of the Supreme Court of India held a press conference on Friday saying that the administration of the country’s highest court was not in order. The judges also warned that democracy would not survive in the country unless the institution was preserved.
The conference that highlighted the growing rift between senior justices and the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, was held at Justice Chelameswar’s residence in New Delhi.
Here are the live updates:
5:05 pm: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee voices “anguish” over the happenings in the Supreme Court.
“We are deeply anguished with the developments today about the Supreme Court. What we are getting from the statement of the four senior Hon’ble Judges of Supreme Court about the affairs of the court makes us really sad as citizens,” Banerjee, also Trinamool Congress chief, said in a statement.
“Judiciary and the media are the pillars of democracy. Extreme interference of central government with judiciary is dangerous for democracy,” she said.
5:00 pm: Congress leaders and senior advocates Salman Khurshid, Manish Tewari and P Chidambaram arrive at Rahul Gandhi’s residence.
4:57 pm: Have known him for a long time. When I came to know of the extraordinary step taken by him & other judges, I thought must meet him. Not giving it political colour. These are concerns for everybody, it’s about future of country & democracy: CPI leader D Raja on meeting Justice Chelameshwar.
4:54 pm: Former Solicitor General of India N Santosh Hegde said he was “devastated” by their action which has caused “irreparable” damage to the institution.
“As a retired judge of the Supreme Court, I feel devastated.
“For some reason or the other, their cause is justified, (but) relief they are seeking is wrong…going to the media? No. Judiciary was always considered as a family. Family disputes are never taken to the streets,” Hedge said.
4:51 pm: Senior advocates K T S Tulsi, former union law ministers Salman Khurshid and Ashwini Kumar, former judges Justice R S Sodhi and Justice Mukul Mudgal expressed concern over the unprecedented press conference.
“I am so pained at the outcome of the things… It is appalling. How can you administer Supreme Court by press conference. Are you going to hold a referendum and ask people what is right and wrong,” Justice Sodhi said.
“I am sure they (four judges) have exhausted all other remedies. One could see pain on their faces while they were speaking. The whole matter is with respect to judicial propriety. The question is of natural justice. Whatever is the law for common man, it is applied much more rigorously as far as judges are concerned because they must always be above suspicion,” Tulsi said.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising welcomed the move and congratulated the four judges
4:40 pm: Feel very disturbed over the issue, this should not have happened, but it has and there might be strong reasons for them. Consequence would be it would create apprehensions in minds of people: Justice(Retd) AK Ganguly.
4:35 pm: Former finance minister and BJP senior leader Yashwant Sinha said he “stands firmly” with the four judges of the Supreme Court.
Seen some of the comments. Stand firmly with the four judges. Instead of criticising them let us concentrate on the issues raised by them. If the highest court is compromised then democracy is in peril.
— Yashwant Sinha (@YashwantSinha) January 12, 2018
What the judges are hinting at is loud and clear. Hope we get at the truth of Judge Loya’s death.
— Yashwant Sinha (@YashwantSinha) January 12, 2018
4.20pm: The Supreme Court Bar Association will meet in New Delhi on January 13 to discuss the aftermath of the press conference held by four senior judges, complaining about the functioning of the top court.
4.15pm: A former CJI and two other judges term the press meet “unprecedented”, according to a report by IANS. Former Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan said he was neither for nor against the four judges on what they did. “What is happening is very unfortunate and this should have been avoided.”
4.10pm: Former Union law minister Hansraj Bhardwaj said, “It’s the loss of prestige of the entire institution. If you lose public’s trust what remains? Judiciary must remain pillar of democracy. It’s responsibility of (the) law minister to see how it functions.”
4pm: Congress leader and senior advocate Kapil Sibal to meet party president Rahul Gandhi at 5pm today over the press conference by the four Supreme Court judges.
3:48 pm: CPI MP D Raja leaves after meeting Justice Chelameshwar at his residence in Delhi, reports ANI.
3.30pm: The CPI(M) said a thorough investigation was needed to understand how the independence and integrity of judiciary was being affected.
2.34pm: Congress says “democracy is in danger”. The party’s official Twitter handle says: “We are very concerned to hear 4 judges of the Supreme Court expressed concerns about the functioning of the Supreme Court. #DemocracyInDanger,”.
2.20pm: Support and backlash after Supreme Court judges criticise CJI. Read full story here.
2.10pm: Judges had to come before media and take this unprecedented step. This means that there is a serious dispute, either with Chief Justice of India (CJI) or some internal dispute, says PB Sawant, former Supreme Court judge.
1.54pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to law minister RS Prasad about the allegations made by the 4 Supreme Court judges: ANI quoting sources.
1.40pm: Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra to address the media at 2 pm, Attorney General to also accompany him, reports ANI news agency.
1.18pm: I think all four judges should be impeached, they have no business to sit there and deliver verdicts anymore. This trade unionism is wrong. Democracy in danger is not for them to say. We have parliament, courts, police functioning: Justice RS Sodhi (Retd)
1.11pm: We are not mentioning details only to avoid embarrassing the institution but note that such departures have already damaged the image of this institution to some extent: Supreme Court judges in letter to CJI.
1.08pm: The four judge’s had written a letter to the CJI two months ago airing their grievance about selective assigning of important cases to judges who are junior to them.
1.05pm: Issue of CBI Judge BH Loya’s death serious, requires bi-party hearing, says Supreme Court. Read story here.
1pm: Four senior Supreme Court judges speak out against CJI Dipak Misra, say need to preserve institution for survival of democracy. Read the full report here.
12.45pm: Cases having far-reaching consequences for the nation were assigned to benches of their preference without any rationale. Not mentioning details only to maintain the integrity of the organisation: Letter written by the 4 judges to CJI.
12.35pm: There is an issue of assignment of a case which is raised in that letter (to CJI): Justice Ranjan Gogoi, on being asked further if it is about CBI Judge BH Loya.
12.30pm: “We are not saying anything,” judges say when asked if they want the CJI to be impeached.
12.29pm: “Nobody is breaking ranks… Don’t put words in our mouths,” Justice Madan Lokur says when asked if it’s a no-confidence vote against CJI.
12.27pm: Construe it as a sign of responsibility to the nation and not protest: Justice Gogoi
12.25pm: We are speaking for ourselves. We didn’t discuss this with anyone else: Justice Chelameswar on being asked if this was a consensus view.
12.20pm: We tried to persuade the CJI to take steps but failed. Unless the institution of Supreme Court is preserved, democracy won’t survive in this country: Justice Chelameswar.
12.17pm: Justice Chelameswar: Don’t want people to say 20 years later that we did not take care of the institution.
12.16pm: “Administration of the Supreme Court is not in order. Time and again as senior members of the court, we thought we hold responsibility to the nation to the institution,” says Justice Chelameswar.
12.10pm: Jasti Chelameswar, Madan Lokur, Kurian Joseph have arrived at the venue. Waiting for Justice Ranjan Gogoi.