Statement by People’s Union for Civil Liberties’ (PUCL’s) Ravi Kiran Jain (National President) and Dr V Suresh (National General Secretary) on issues raised by the four judges at a press conference in Delhi on January 13, 2018:
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) is seriously concerned over the implication of issues raised by the 4 senior most SC judges after the Chief Justice of India (CJI) going public about their disagreement with the CJI over functioning of the judicial institution both in its administrative as also judicial sphere of functioning.
In the Press Conference, all the 4 SC judges – Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph (2nd to 5th in order of seniority) informed that they have already raised these concerns with the CJI 2 months back itself, and even on 12th January morning; but owing to lack of response from the CJI they were compelled to take the extraordinary step of making public their concerns.
The issues raised by the 4 senior judges are central to the independence of the judiciary: manner of deciding the roster and composition and strength of Benches, integrity of judicial process, institutional integrity, transparency in appointment of judges, etc. They have clearly and openly indicated that these vital principles have not just been flouted but ethically compromised.
As the judges point out, “There have been instances where case having far-reaching consequences for the Nation and the institution had been assigned by the Chief Justices of this court selectively to the benches “of their preference” without any rationale basis for such assignment. This must be guarded against at all costs”.
In our view this is not just a matter of judges and lawyers and the judicial institution but a matter which concerns our Constitution and democratic system, and is the concern of all citizens and the nation itself. It is important that the several cases pointed out by the 4 judges group should be made public and appropriate remedial action must be taken to undo the improprieties inflicted upon the litigants concerned and the public.
It should be pointed out that for the last 2 to 3 years there had been a lot of talk within the legal fraternity, as also the rights community and democratically minded citizens over increasing attempts to politicise and influence the judiciary, by way of undue influence of the process of appointments of judges, manner of constitution of benches, allocation of cases and so on. The Letter written by the 4 senior Judges only affirms the doubts people have had till now.
A time has come for the nation to seriously introspect and openly discuss these issues to ensure that the Indian Judiciary remains a truly independent institution. The judiciary is an important bulwark against attempts to dilute, change and limit the fundamental and constitutional rights of Indian citizens and against majoritarian tendencies that seek to undermine our constitutional values of Liberty, Equality, Democracy, and Secularism.
We believe that the issues raised in the letter and press conference of the 4 Supreme Court Judges must be addressed immediately and course correction must be ensured. We also hope that the CJI and other stakeholders will take the issues raised by the senior most companion judges of the CJI in the proper spirit and with utmost seriousness and give its resolution due importance; as otherwise the same would have unfortunate consequences for both the institution of the judiciary in India and democracy and the constitutional scheme in the country.
Statement signed by Adv Surendra Gadling, General Secretary, and Adv Sudha Bharadwaj, Vice-President, Indian Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL):
The Indian Association of People’s Lawyers applauds the courageous step taken by the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court in placing, before “we, the people” as the ultimate authority, the impasse that has been created by the refusal of the Chief Justice of India to respond to their legitimate and responsible concerns over his recent administrative actions. In their letter written to the CJI two months ago and made public today, they have raised in particular the allocation of various important and sensitive cases in a manner that is violative of court traditions, norms and decorum to junior or handpicked judges thus raising apprehensions regarding the integrity of the Supreme Court. They have stated that Democracy is in danger if the Judiciary is not independent.
In doing so, they have affirmed what several courageous senior lawyers – Dushyant Dave, Prashant Bhushan, Indira Jaising, Kamini Jaiswal, Rajeev Dhawan etc. have been facing and fighting in sensitive matters such as the “Aadhar” case, the case for instituting an SIT into Judge Loya’s death in suspicious circumstances, the CJAR matter, the Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid matter and many others.
This is the time when lawyers all over the country must rise to the occasion to publicly debate the issues of judicial appointments, judicial accountability, and judicial integrity in our Supreme Court and High Courts. The concern is not only regarding pendency, delay and corruption; but also the erosion in Constitutional values of social justice and nondiscrimination, freedom of speech and association, secularism and a socialist pattern of economy, while adjudicating cases. As “officers of the court” let us play our role in breathing life into our Constitution.