Justice Chelameswar expresses anguish over affairs in SC, refuses to list PIL on allocation of cases
An exasperated Justice Chelameswar also accused "someone" of running a "relentless tirade" against him as if he was trying to "grab something" as he turned down listing of a PIL by former law minister Shanti Bhushan questioning the existing roster practice of allocation of cases.
The strong comments came when activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan approached the bench seeking urgent listing of the PIL filed by his father stating that the "master of roster" cannot have "unguided and unbridled discretionary powers, exercised arbitrarily by the CJI by hand-picking benches of select judges" and sought formulation of guidelines for allocation of cases.
After the rift between CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Chelameswar had surfaced for the first time in November last year, a new practice was introduced under which urgent mentioning of all matters was being done only before the CJI-headed bench.
Disregarding the practice, Bhushan rushed to Justice Chelameswar-headed bench, and sought urgent listing of the PIL on the ground that the CJI was a party in the petition and there was an "emergency situation".
However, Justice Chelameswar told Bhushan that "someone is running a relentless tirade against me that I am up to grab something. There is nothing I can do much in this. I am sorry. You please understand my difficulty."
Observing that the country will understand everything and follow its own course, Justice Chelameswar, who was sitting with Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, said he would not like to deal with the matter as the reasons were "too obvious".
"Mr. Bhushan, I don't want one more reversal of my order in the next 24 hours. This is why I can't do it. Please understand my difficulty," he said. He was apparently referring to the reversal of an order of a bench headed by him by the CJI's bench on November 10 last year.
Chelameswar's bench had on November 9 last year ordered setting up of a bench, comprising five senior most judges, to hear a PIL filed by NGO 'Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms' related to alleged medical admission scam.
The order was overturned by a CJI-led bench the very next day on the ground that since the Chief Justice was the Master of the Roster, he "alone had the prerogative to constitute benches".
Justice Chelameswar also referred to his March 21 letter written to the CJI about alleged government interference in judiciary and said, "few days back, I have written a letter which is in a public domain. You all know about that".
Bhushan, who persisted with his arguments for urgent hearing, said he was forced to approach Justice Chelameswar's bench as the PIL was filed 10 days back but the matter is not being listed by the apex court registry.
On being denied urgent listing of his father's PIL by Justice Chelameswar's bench, Bhushan immediately rushed to the adjacent court of Chief Justice Misra and mentioned the matter for expeditious listing. "We will look into it," the bench headed by CJI said.
Yesterday, the apex court bench headed by the CJI had once again reasserted that the Chief Justice of India was the "first among equals" and occupied a unique position having the "exclusive prerogative" to allocate cases and set up benches to hear cases.
On January 12 this year, the four senior judges of the apex court, Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph warned that democracy was at risk and mounted a virtual revolt against the CJI raising questions on "selective" case allocation and certain judicial orders, sending shockwaves across the judiciary and polity.
In an unprecedented move, these judges had convened a press conference and said the situation in the top court was "not in order" and many "less than desirable" things have taken place.
Subsequently on March 21, Justice Chelameswar had shot off a letter to the CJI asking him to consider convening a full court to take up the issue of alleged executive interference in judiciary.
Separately, Justice Kurian Joseph has also written a letter to the CJI expressing concern over the delay by the government in clearing the names recommended by the collegium in February for elevation.
Expressing concern over the independence of the judiciary, Justice Joseph has asked the CJI to establish a bench of seven senior-most judges to suo motu take up the matter of the government sitting on the two names.
He has also said that the government's act of sitting over on the recommendations of the Collegium was "abuse of power" which sends a wrong message to all the judges not to cause any displeasure to the executive.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)