In tell-all letter, four judges points to selective allotment of cases

Justice Chelameswar Ranjan Gogoi Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph at the press conference

Justice Chelameswar Ranjan Gogoi Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph at the press conference

The judges said in the letter that they wanted to highlight certain judicial orders passed by the Supreme Court which had adversely affected the overall functioning of the justice delivery system and the independence of the High Courts besides impacting the administrative functioning of the office of the Chief Justice of India.

The press conference was called by Justices Madan B. Lokur, Kurien Joseph, Ranjan Gogoi and Jasti Chelameswar and took place from the lawns of Justice Chelameswar's official residence in New Delhi.

In a departure from the practice of appointing a judge from outside a state as chief justice of its high court, the senior-most judge of Calcutta High Court, Justice J. Bhattacharya, has been confirmed as the chief justice because he has a tenure of less than a year remaining.

RS Sodhi, a retired Supreme Court justice, said the judges' decision to express their grievances openly was appalling.

Justice Chelameswar said that the attempt to collectively persuade the CJI was undertaken for months, but to no avail. After a news magazine recently published a report claiming suspicious circumstances around Loya's death, his son Anuj Loya and Bombay HC judge Justice Bhushan Gavai had said there were no unusual circumstances to the death of the CBI judge. "Again today morning we went [.] but we failed to convince [the CJI]", according to the NDTV broadcast of the press conference.

"We owe a responsibility to the institution and the nation".

The letter that was addressed by these four judges to Misra suggests that as "master of the roster" the CJI had not exercised his power to assign cases to various benches in accordance with conventional rules of bench composition and strength.

Speaking to the media, the senior judges addressed the biggest issue faced by the judiciary.

"When the Memorandum of Procedure was the subject matter of a decision of a Constitution Bench of this court in Supreme Court, Advocates on Record Association and (Another) vs Union of India (2016), it is hard to understand as to how any other bench could have dealt with the matter", they told the Chief Justice.

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".

When asked if he thinks Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra should be impeached, Justice Chelameswar said, "Let the nation decide that". Many things which are less than desirable have happened in last few months. many things which are less than desirable have happened in last few months.

"Democracy will not survive if judiciary is not impartial", he said.

While addressing the media persons, Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, "It is discharge of debt to the nation which has brought them here".

A division bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice M.M. Shantanagoudar asked the Maharashtra government to file a reply and documents by January 15, the next date of hearing.

However, the senior judges were not ready to divulge more details.

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