Former Chief Justice of India Justice R M Lodha on Tuesday termed as "disastrous" the prevailing situation in the apex judiciary and said though the CJI is the master of roster, the allocation of cases has to be "fair and in the interest of the institution." Asserting that the "independence of judiciary is non-negotiable", Justice Lodha said it was for the CJI to take the institution forward by showing "statesmanship qualities" and taking his colleagues together.
"The phase we are seeing at the Supreme Court today is, to say the least, disastrous. It is high time that collegiality is restored. The judges, though with their different approaches and different view points, must find a common ground that takes the Supreme Court forward. That maintains the independence of judiciary," Justice Lodha said at a function to release a book by former union minister Arun Shourie.
Justice Lodha had faced a similar incident as in the case of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph during his tenure as the CJI when the NDA government had segregated the Collegium's recommendation and sought reconsideration of the name of senior advocate Gopal Subramanium as an apex court judge. Subramanium had later stepped aside from the race.
"I always felt that independence of judiciary is non-negotiable and it is for the CJI, who is the leader of the court, to take them forward. He has to show his statesmanship qualities take all brothers and sisters together," Lodha said, without making any reference to the incumbent CJI Dipak Misra.
Former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah and former union minister and a critic of NDA government Arun Shourie, who shared the platform with Justice Lodha, also criticised the overall functioning of the CJI.
Former Delhi High Court judge, Justice A P Shah, also termed the recent verdict of apex court on the death of special CBI judge B H Loya as "utterly wrong and judicially incorrect".
He said that the apex court in its judge Loya case verdict had called it as a veiled attempt to attack on the judiciary and asked "How is asking for an investigation an attack on the judiciary?" "The system as a whole has evolved into something cold-hearted. Even with all this, the judiciary is still one of the last institutions that are respected, but that is changing," he said.
Shourie called upon senior lawyers present in the hall said "if the present CJI Dipak Misra has to say repeatedly that he is the master of the roster ... this already means that he has lost the moral authority.
He also advocated that the executive should be checked in order to prevent "totalitarian control of every institution" and said "if you do not stop them, they will go on. Most institutions are eroded from the inside".
Crucial collegium meet tomorrow to reconsider name of Justice Joseph
A crucial meeting of the Supreme Court Collegium is likely to take place tomorrow to reconsider the name of the Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph for elevation as a judge of the apex court which was sent back by the government last week, an official said on Tuesday.
The five-member collegium, comprising Chief Justice Misra and justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, is likely to discuss threadbare the note sent to the CJI by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while returning the file relating to the recommendation to elevate Justice Joseph as an apex court judge.
Justice Joseph's name was recommended along with the senior advocate Indu Malhotra on January 10 for their elevation as apex court judges. The government had on April 26 declined to accept the recommendation of the Collegium and asked it to reconsider his name.
Malhotra was sworn in as the judge of the apex court on April 27.
Justice K M Joseph, who had headed the bench that had quashed the Narendra Modi government's decision to impose President's rule in the Congress-ruled hill state in 2016, was not considered to be elevated as a Supreme Court judge by the Centre which said the proposal was not in accordance with the top court's parameters and there was adequate representation of Kerala in the higher judiciary from where he hails.
His seniority was also questioned by the Centre which said "he stands at Sl. No.45 in the combined seniority of High Court Judges on all-India basis." Justice Joseph, who turns 60 this June, has been the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court since July 2014. He was appointed a permanent judge of the Kerala High Court on October 14, 2004 and assumed charge of the Uttarakhand High Court on July 31, 2014.