Press Conference of Four Supreme Court Judges and the Crisis in Judiciary
On 12 January, four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court called a press conference to fire a salvo against the present Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, accusing him of arbitrarily handling the Supreme Court’s daily affairs and allocating the hearing of the crucial cases to selective benches without any rational or consultation with other judges.
These senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph, who rank just next to the CJI in seniority, organised this press conference, unprecedented in the history of India, and used the occasion to train their guns at CJI Dipak Misra. These four senior judges claimed that they were compelled to take this step to protect the credibility of the institution of the judiciary and its role in protecting the rule of the Constitution and democracy.
While these four senior-most judges started their virtual rebellion against CJI Dipak Misra, the latter completely overlooked them, initially, and thereby, endorsed the accusations levelled by these four judges. On Monday, 15 January, the CJI established a five-judge Constitution Bench to hear the pleas on several crucial pending cases like the PIL against Aadhar linking, the right of women to enter the Sabarimala temple between the age of 10 to 50, the right of Parsi women to get a share of their paternal property despite marrying a non-Parsi, etc.
However, as the discontent kept brewing within the institution and the Modi government was forced to hide behind the shield of independence of the judiciary, to save its skin, the CJI had to meet the four judges, once again after Friday, to discuss the allegations levelled by them. The Bar Council of India and the Attorney General played a crucial role to put up a united picture of the court, however, such attempts failed, repeatedly, as antagonisms grew and even resulted into theatrics within the court.
Probably, as a result of the meeting between them, or due to stir created by the press conference itself, Justice Arun Mishra, a judge whose ability to deal with a PIL seeking the enquiry into the mysterious death of CBI judge B.H. Loya in December 2014 was questioned by the four judges, excused himself from the crucial case of the PIL demanding an investigation to uncover the truth behind the mysterious death of CBI Judge B.H. Loya.
The Press Conference and the Multitude of Allegations
In the historic press conference, the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court spoke on a plethora of topics, ranging from the problem of discharging their duty freely to the arbitrary actions of the CJI, which according to them hinders the process of justice. They said that the press conference was organised to ensure that 20-30 years later when the role of the Supreme Court will be analysed by the youth regarding its performance during these times, they don’t accuse these judges of selling their souls. There was a sublayer criticism of the present state-of-affairs in this clarification, which someway or other indicates the complicity of the Modi regime in disrupting the normal course of justice delivery.
Theoretically, the Supreme Court is assigned the job of not only passing the final and binding order on any legal case or litigation but to also check the power of the parliament and the executive, to ensure that the values of the Constitution and its rule on the land aren’t threatened or violated by any of these two other pillars of the state machinery. The empowerment of the fascist Hindutva camp and its firm grip over all sections of the bureaucracy and judiciary has strangulated the idea of separation and balancing of power to keep the interest of the people supreme.
According to Justices Chelameswar, Gogoi, Lokur and Joseph, the state of Indian judiciary, especially the business at the highest pinnacle of law, is in an egregious state to be ignored by judges of their stature and seniority. Their accusations were trained against the CJI Dipak Misra for his arbitrary role in discharging the “master of the roster” duty, which according to the judges, is done in a way that’s sans any rationale. They accused the CJI of handing over crucial cases to benches without providing any logic to back such moves. The surprising thing is, most of these cases have implications in the political fortune of the BJP and the Hindutva camp headed by the RSS.
Though the measured outburst of the senior judges of the Supreme Court drew flak from the hardcore cheerleaders of the Modi regime, who called it an act of conspiracy by the opposition, the judges confined themselves only within the ambit of talking about the problems that are ruling the corridors and benches of the apex court since Dipak Misra was elevated to the position of CJI in August 2017. They kept mum on any political issue and kept their attacks centred on the procedural lapses in the functioning of the present CJI. To a layman, the act of this rebellion will appear only as a manifestation of a contradiction that took place over operational issues while discharging function. However, the press conference, sans its sublayers of political messages, subtly raised the corruption allegations again
Corruption Allegations Against CJI Dipak Misra
There are corruption allegations raised against the present CJI Dipak Misra. Justice Dipak Misra comes from a powerful landowning Brahmin family of Odisha. His grandfather Godabarish Misra was one of the prominent politicians of the Congress Party in Odisha since the colonial era; while his father was an MLA in Odisha and his younger uncle Lokanath Misra was a Rajya Sabha MP, another of his uncle, Ranganath Misra, was India’s 21st CJI, who once cleared the names of Congressmen from the enquiry report of 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom.
Dipak Misra once sought land from the Odisha government citing himself as a landless Brahmin at a time when his father was an ex-MLA and his uncle a Rajya Sabha MP while he himself practised as an advocate, taking care of the clients and cases that Ranganath Misra left behind after being promoted as a judge. The land was allotted to him in 1979 when he was practising as an advocate and renowned Supreme Court lawyer Shanti Bhushan had written in details about the flaws in selecting Dipak Misra as the CJI when he had corruption cases in his name.
Considering CJI Dipak Misra’s closeness with the present regime, the accusations levelled against him, subtly by the four senior Justices of the apex court, is commendable as a daring act. Especially when CJI Dipak Misra proclaimed himself to be the “master of the Supreme Court” through an order passed in November over the cases of corruption against judges.
The Case of the Mysterious Death of CBI Judge B.H. Loya
During their press conference, the four judges spoke about three major bone of contentions that forced them to come to the press. The first one being the arbitrary roster management by the CJI, the second one was on the question of the Memorandum of Procedure finalisation and the last and important one being the allotment of the hearing of a PIL seeking a fair enquiry on the mysterious death of CBI judge, Justice B.H. Loya to Justice Arun Mishra.
Justice B.H. Loya was a CBI judge in Gujarat, who was hearing the case of Sohrabuddin Fake Encounter, in which present BJP President Amit Shah was the prime accused. CBI judge J.T. Utpat was hearing the case before B.H. Loya, he was transferred when he refused to heed a BJP directive to go soft on Shah and as a result, the case was transferred to B.H. Loya. Justice Loya died in mysterious circumstances during the hearing between 30th November and 1st December 2014 in Nagpur, where he went to attend a wedding of his colleague’s daughter. However, his death was shrouded in mystery and there were traces of the presence of the Hindutva camp in transferring his body to his home village in Latur district.
The relatives of B.H. Loya alleged on camera to the Caravan that Mohit Shah, the then Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court offered the deceased a bribe of ₹100 crores if Amit Shah is released and Loya was under tremendous pressure for the same reason. Soon after his mysterious death, the case of Amit Shah was passed to the bench of M.V. Gosavi and soon Amit Shah was discharged of all charges by the CBI court on 30th December 2014. The CBI never challenged the order because the Modi regime wanted it to chase and hound the opposition leaders, instead of hunting for criminals who found refuge in the sanctuary of Hindutva.
This recent revelation regarding the mysterious death of CBI Judge B.H. Loya created a stir in the media and it’s only Caravan, which carried out the story in details without censoring the crucial investigation, unlike the mainstream corporate media. The mystery around the death of Judge B.H. Loya got a new spin when his visibly frightened son, under the watchdog of the Intelligence Agencies and the Hindutva thugs, called his father’s death a normal death and said he and his family want privacy and no investigation into the issue. It doesn’t need a PhD to understand who is controlling the show from the backstage.
The Real Role of Judiciary in India so far
It must be remembered that since the colonial era, the institutions made by the British imperialism have been tormenting and punishing the poor, the marginalised communities and those who dare to oppose the predatory policies that govern the country. The judiciary has been supporting the regimes of the day, without questioning the basic tenets of the policies and principles that guide the colonial bureaucratic system built by the British imperialism and used by the present day rulers.
The judiciary didn’t help the people during the times of national disgrace, like the Emergency; it remained largely a mute spectator during the genocides in Bhagalpur, Kashmir, Mumbai, Gujarat, Muzaffarnagar, etc. when the cries and wails of the victims echoed and vanquished unheard and unattended.
Rather than combating such gruesome crimes committed against the marginalised communities and hapless people of the country, the judiciary always took a stern stand against the trade union rights of the working class, anti-feudal peasants’ movement; against the right of the people to strike, the very people who pay for the upkeep of these institutions. It’s no wonder that today the majority of undertrials and convicts locked in Indian prisons are Dalits, tribals, Muslims and Christians.
For the last seven decades since the end of the direct colonial rule, no judicial representative or bureaucrats looked upon the people with respect, despite knowing that their institutions function due to the availability of the hard-earned money of the common people, rather history is a witness of the fact that the institutional pillars like the executive, the legislature, the judiciary and the media outlets always played an anti-people, anti-poor and anti-marginalised role in post direct-colonial period, irrespective of the party that held power.
A sloth judicial process, excessive expenditures associated with litigation process and justice delivery mechanism, the anti-poor and elitist outlook of the administration and the colonial-era penal code and draconian laws, which are discriminatory in nature, have collectively made the people grow sceptical towards the judicial system and thereby, helped in the promotion of mobocracy and anarchy throughout the country. Unscrupulous elements and politicians have always milked this lack of trust on the judiciary to promote violence and arson throughout the country.
The Allegations of the Four Senior-most Judges and the Crisis Within the Institution of Judiciary
When the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court were showing the world their constrained condition and that everything is not flowing like milk and honey of the promised paradise within the judiciary, then questions were raised over their credibility and their interests by one section of the political theatre – the supporters of the Modi regime. The other section, the liberal democrats, the Congress-supported parliamentary opposition, called this outburst as an outburst against the Modi government and extended their support to the judges without judging the incident with its merit.
The only politically strong content that came out from the press meet of these four senior-most judges was the statement that democracy can be in a perilous state in India. This isn’t just the cliche that the Indian politicians have been using since the era of Nehru, rather it’s coming for the first time from the pinnacle of the judicial system, signalling a rift within the ruling classes and thereby exposing the nefarious plans of the ruling classes – to replace the cosmetic and crooked democracy with a fascist system, which will be managed as per Brahminical rule of caste privilege and puritanism.
While the Supreme Court’s future is in peril, the country is actually in an extremely perilous state since 2014, as the state machinery took off the secular pajama it was wearing to hoodwink the people for so long and it joined the ranks with the Hindutva thugs, unabashedly, to butcher the Muslims, Dalits and tribals by igniting the flames of xenophobia and jingoism. The venom of fake nationalism is injected into the veins and arteries of the country to ensure that communal vitriol and radicalisation can harvest good yield, living a divided country and disunited people.
Even after the allegations levelled by the four senior Supreme Court judges, their apprehensions telecasted throughout the week and almost all media outlets discussing their case, especially the one related to the mysterious death of CBI Judge, B.H. Loya and the Bar Council of India and CJI Dipak Misra trying to do the damage control along with the Attorney General, some major questions regarding the performance of the supreme institute of law in the country remain unanswered.
Is the judicial institution – the laws and processes that guide it – so flawless that even if any stern measure against the present CJI is taken then the system and democracy will properly reboot themselves and purge corruption from within? Can the poor and the oppressed people of the country, exploited and persecuted by big corporations, feudal landlords and foreign capital, expect real justice from the judicial system when Dipak Misra will not lead the institution? Will everything become perfect sans the present CJI? Can the Supreme Court restore the faith of the majority of the poor, oppressed and marginalised people on the effectiveness, unbiased nature and fairness of its justice delivery system?
No one can assure the people of the country about the proper functioning of the legal system even after the impeachment of the present CJI, who just heads and controls a part of the larger system, the very system that is owned by the feudal landlords, the big comprador capitalists and the foreign monopoly and finance capital-owned corporations and their political appendages of all hues. The four judges are in safe quarters that they didn’t face the wrath of the apex court, which the former judge of Calcutta High Court, Justice C.S. Karnan faced when he questioned the biased nature of the Supreme Court and accused the Supreme Court’s judges of corruption and caste-based discrimination.
Justice Retd. Karnan was rebuked and bashed by the apex court when he passed an unprecedented judgement against its sitting judges, ordering them to appear in his High Court bench, calling them casteist, corrupt and biased. A bench headed by the then CJI Justice Retd. J.S. Khehar scrapped the order by Justice Karnan and ordered his arrest, censored the media from publishing his views, which is against his Constitutional right of free speech and the court punished him with six months of incarceration, totally ignoring and hiding the essence of Justice C.S. Karnan’s order.
When the then CJI, Justice Retd. J.S. Khehar was ordering punitive actions against Justice Retd. C.S. Karnan, when Justice Retd. Karnan’s Dalit identity was used to vilify him and his caste by the media moguls and social media trolls, then no judge came out in defence of democracy and the rights of a brother judge. No one questioned the actions of CJI, Justice Retd. J.S. Khehar, as there was a fear, a tyranny, ruling the hearts of the judicial ranks, the fear of being punished with contempt, a British colonial rule that’s used to force the views of one section of public servants over the nation, uncritically.
The observations made by Justice Retd. C.S. Karnan happened to be quite indigestible in substance for the apex court and its judges to gulp, however, the hardcore unscientific and pro-Hindutva outlook of Justice Retd. Mahesh Chandra Sharma of the Rajasthan High Court, who claimed that peacock gets pregnant by drinking tears, didn’t call for any action against him, a former judge, who may have been guided by the same views while passing judgements in crucial cases throughout his career. Then we will be told that merit, not caste, drives the judiciary!
According to the four justices, it’s the right time to raise the questions and expose the contradictions within the judiciary at the top-most level. An imminent struggle is ongoing between different sections of the judges and advocates since the time the BJP came to power and expressed its desire to discard the present Constitution and impose a Hindutva theological dictatorship over the country by sanctifying modified Hindu and essentially Brahminical code of conduct.
The Threat of Hindutva Fascism and the Struggle to Defeat it
The aim of the Modi-led Hindutva enterprise to transform India officially into a Hindutva-ruled and Hindi-speaking nation-state is supported by a large number of judges, advocates and bureaucrats due to its inbuilt Brahminical appeal, which suits their privileged class and caste interests. Over the last few decades, especially since the demolition of the Babri Masjid by the RSS and the BJP, the anti-Muslim bias of the entire state machinery, the domination of Islamophobia and the brewing of hatred towards Muslims, Dalits, tribal people and other minority communities are on the rise within the Indian state machinery. The four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court were just pinpointing the tip of the iceberg.
Indian democracy is not under attack just because the CJI, Dipak Misra, has allegations of corruptions levelled against him, rather the ideology of democracy and its values are trampled over, brutally, by the state and the ruling classes, every day because they badly want an officially fascist state to function with legitimacy and impunity. The principles of democracy are perishing as the opponents of the Modi regime and its disastrous policies are coming under attack launched by the Hindutva fascist camp with impunity and under the patronage of the state.
The Hindutva fascist regime Narendra Modi, controlled by foreign and domestic corporate houses, is sponsoring the lynching of minority community members on the streets and they are openly mocking the Constitution and rights guaranteed to the common people under it. The judiciary cannot remain immune from this mammoth exercise to purge the remnants of secularism and democracy from the Indian society and establish a formal fascist corporate-feudal dictatorship over it. The Modi government will surely purge the judges and legal system that goes contrary to the mission of establishing a Hindutva kingdom.
To protect their hard-won democratic rights, the poor, landless peasantry, the working class, the people of marginalised and oppressed communities, i.e. the broad masses of the people themselves have to hit the streets and struggle to establish a transparent democratic people’s rule in India and bring forth laws that will protect the interests of the broad majority of the people from the onslaughts of fascism sponsored by foreign monopoly and finance capital, Indian comprador capitalists and feudal landlords. It’s the Suo Motu action of the people that will free the country of the fascist menace that threatens its very existence. No other institution can fuel greater changes in the country that is owned by the people and must return to them, rather than to the Supreme Court or the CJI.
An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker