In an unprecedented move, four senior Supreme Court judges today called a press conference to express their displeasure with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Mishra and with the way he was assigning cases.
The four judges+ ' wrote a letter to the CJI two months ago, airing their grievances about selective assigning of important cases to judges who are junior to them. They also said they have issues with the assignment of the case to do with the mysterious death of Justice BH Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case.
"The convention of recognising that CJI is the master of roster and assigns cases to different benches is for disciplined and efficient transaction of court business and not a recognition of superior authority," they said in the letter.
"The CJI is only the first among equals nothing more and nothing less", they added.
The judges were Justice Chelameswar, Justice Gogoi, Justice Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph. They said they are speaking out because "democracy will not survive if the judiciary is not impartial".
The judges said they were annoyed that the medical college admissions scam was sent to court no 7 after a Justice Chelameswar headed bench sent it to a five-judge bench of himself, the CJI and Justices Gogoi, Lokur and Joseph.
They also said they wanted to highlight unspecified irregularities in the judiciary and to say that the CJI Mishra isn't doing anything to remedy the situation, despite the letter they wrote him some months ago.
When the Justices were asked if the issues were to do with the Collegium as well, they didn't confirm or deny it. When asked if CJI Mishra should be removed, one of them said, "Let the nation decide on his impeachment."
They said they sent the CJI the letter but didn't hear back, and then they met him again this morning, to no avail.
"We collectively tried to persuade the CJI that certain things aren't in order so take remedial measures but unfortunately our efforts failed," said Justice Chelameswar.
The four judges said many "undesirable" things have occurred in the judiciary lately.
"The administration of the SC is not in order and many things which are less than desirable have happened in last few months," said Justice Chelameswar.
A few minutes before the press conference, the SC said, separately, that the "mysterious death of Justice BH Loya is a serious issue". They asked the Maharashtra government to present all documents to do with his death to the court on Monday. Justice Loya was hearing the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case and died under mysterious circumstances.
The judges also had a grievance that the PIL seeking a probe into Justice Loya's death was assigned to court no. 10 and not to any of the first four benches other than CJI-led bench.