The decision of four sitting senior-most judges of the Supreme Court to hold a press conference was today termed as "unprecedented" by the legal fraternity, with some experts terming it as "shocking" while some others saying there could have been some compelling reasons for such a move.
Without disclosing what they were upset about, the four judges -- Justice J Chelameswar (the No.2 in the apex court hierarchy), Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Kurien Joseph and Justice Madan B Lokur, said that “they have been compelled to do this”.
They said that "administration of the Supreme Court is not in order and that many things less than desirable have happened in the last few months”.
Here’s who said what:
Subramanian Swamy, BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP: When such judges come out to do a press conference, it is necessary to take them seriously rather than finding fault. The Prime Minister should take an initiative and contact the Chief Justice and the four judges to resolve the whole situation through the process of consultation.
Santosh Hegde, former Solicitor General of India: 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. In democracy, people have lost faith in Legislature and Executive, and their faith lies only in Judiciary now. I feel very sad about it. I am sure they (the four judges) are hurt with many things which ought not to have happened. But for heaven's sake, what they did was wrong. I don't think this damage can ever be repaired. It amounts to a Constitutional crisis now. And it will lead to all sorts of criticism from aggrieved people from the judiciary and people who have benefited from the judiciary will not speak about it. And in the long run, judiciary is (will become) another subject matter of Tom, Dick and Harry.
RS Sodhi, former SC judge: 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 Mukul Mudgal, former Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief: The four senior-most judges were bringing the issues to light which according to them was necessary to be brought to the public notice. They must have had compelling reasons to go public and they are not publicity hungry judges and do not crave for unnecessary publicity.
Indira Jaising, senior lawyer: The presser is a welcome step. I congratulate the four judges for the ‘bold move’. As they said they are discharging a debt to history, namely to let the nation know that something is going wrong and needs to be corrected. The intention of the press meet was to build a consensus to owe a debt of duty to the institution as a whole and ensure that this institution survives for you and me.
Prashant Bhushan, advocate: The judges took extreme decision to hold press conference under compelling circumstances. These four judges are very responsible. If they are doing this, the situation would have definitely gone out of control. They said the CJI was misusing his administrative powers to allot all cases.
KTS Tulsi, senior lawyer: The step was quite shocking and one had never thought that things would come such far compelling the four senior-most judges to adopt this course of action. 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.
Salman Khurshid, former union minister and senior advocate: There were some deep differences among the judges about how the apex court should function. I can only hope that conversation among the judges will not snap and will continue and that with accommodation and logic it will be settled. It has come too far.
Ashwini Kumar, former law minister: It was a sad day for Indian democracy. This press conference is a strike at the root of the institutional integrity of the higher judiciary. It has raised question marks about the credibility of the system as such and has directly cast aspersions at the head of the Indian judiciary. I think the people of this country who have had highest regard to the highest judiciary will now be forced to think aloud as to whether we have gone gravely wrong somewhere.
Mamata Banerjee, CM of West Bengal: 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. Judiciary and the media are the pillars of democracy. Extreme interference of central government with judiciary is dangerous for democracy.
Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) general secretary: This cannot but merit a thorough, proper investigation and understanding of how independence and integrity of judiciary is being interfered or is being affected, which is impermissible in a secular democratic republic. That we declare ourselves in our Constitution. So it is necessary for all three wings of our democracy—the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary--to ensure that whatever has been raised is corrected.
Manjula Chellur, retired Bombay HC chief justice: Something must have triggered the four judges to go public with their claims. These situations are difficult. But what needs to be kept in mind is that this is not about just individuals. This is about the institution in totality. All steps must be taken to ensure that the dignity of the judiciary is held high. Courts are the last place the public goes to resolve their disputes and problems. I am sure Attorney General KK Venugopal and the Union law minister and others concerned will take into consideration all the factors and take a suitable decision.
VG Palshikar, ex-Bombay HC judge: The top court judges' allegations are an "unprecedented move". This is a black day in the history of courts. This should not have happened. There was no need to go to the public. They (four judges) should have raised these issues in a chamber meeting in the Supreme Court. We will now have to see what the chief justice of India does.
Anoop Mohta, retired Bombay HC judge: This is like a volcano erupting. Such a thing has never happened. Courts do not appreciate even when lawyers appear before the media with comments and opinions on the working of the judiciary.
Pramod Kode, ex-Bombay HC judge: I hope all appropriate steps are taken to maintain the dignity of the judiciary.
KG Balakrishnan, former CJI: The judiciary is the sanctuary of the common man. This kind of a situation will trigger doubts about the institution and this should not have happened.