Controversy over the discretion of CJI in India: Issues and Concern
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India, a country where rule of law exists and the third pillar of the government i.e. judiciary is seen as the most trusted one among all other pillars of the democracy but the questions over the highest authority of the highest institution i.e. Chief Justice of India (CJI), in the honourable supreme court of India on the questions of nepotism and abuse of power raises a very serious question regarding the accountability of the courts and judicial mechanism in India.
The allegations were made by Justice J Chelameshwar, Justice Rajan Gogoi, Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph (all presently working as senior judges of honourable Supreme Court) on the current Chief Justice of India Justice Deepak Misra on the issues of selective assigning of important cases to judges who are junior to them, assignment of the case regarding the mysterious death of Justice B.H. LOYA, who was hearing the famous Sohrabuddin fake encounter case and by using discretion in sending cases to selective benches. These issues were raised when the confidential letter written by these judges to CJI became public and a press conference was held by these judges. The complete details of the issues raised in the letter by the 4 judges are discussed in this article.
Reviewing the matter in controversy
On 12th January 2018, four senior judges of the Supreme court Justice J Chelameshwar, Justice Rajan Gogoi, Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph addressed a press conference and criticized the administrative discretions of justice Deepak Misra and his style of distribution and allocation of cases in the apex court. In the very 1st paragraph of the letter it was written that the there are certain orders taken by honourable Chief Justice which adversely affected the overall functioning of the justice delivery system. According to them some traditions of judicial administration were broken after a century. It was also said that it is a well settled principle that Chief Justice is only first among equals nothing more or nothing less.
It was also blamed that Justice Misra works according to his own preferences. Two cases R.P. Luthra v. Union of India and Supreme Court Advocates-on-record Association and others v. Union of India were also mentioned in which the selection of bench was arbitrarily done by the Chief Justice of India. There were also allegations regarding the violation of the memorandum of procedures. It was also said in the letter to rectify the situation and to take remedial actions in all the above mentioned facts in issue regarding which the present controversy has rose up and the questions over the independence and effectiveness of the judicial system has stood.
Justice Deepak Misra: A brief review
Justice Deepak Misra a person of legal background having Justice Ranganath Misra (21st CJI) as his uncle joined the apex court on Oct 10, 2011 and became Chief Justice of India (45th) succeeding Justice J.S. Kehar on 28th August 2017.He was enrolled at the bar on 14 feb 1977 and practised at the Orissa High Court and the service tribunal. He was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Orissa High Court in 1996 and later transferred to the Madhya Pradesh High Court where he was made a Permanent Judge on 19th December 1997. Before getting appointed into the apex court he was the chief justice of Patna as well as Delhi High court. He will retire on 2nd Oct 2018 when he will turn 65. The name of Justice Deepak Misra is associated with a number of land mark judgements. This includes the famous Yakub memon case in which death sentence was given in lieu of attack on parliament. He passed judgement in the Own Motion v. State case, in which online FIR for the first time was enacted. He also gave a landmark judgement in the case of reservation in the matter of promotion and held that reservation in the matter of promotion can only be given if there is sufficient data and evidence to justify the need. He also upheld the decision of death sentence in the famous brutal Nirbhaya rape case on 5 may 2017. He also upheld constitutionality of criminal defamation in the famous justice C.S. Karnan contempt of court case and sentenced him to six months imprisonment.
The above controversy once again gave rise to the question over the appointment mechanism in the higher judiciary. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, this quote by Sir Arnold in the true sense describes the present condition of Indian Judiciary. Lack of transparency and opaque appointment procedure lead to a direct conflict between executive and judiciary and National Judicial Appointment Commission Bill 2014, was brought with an all-new procedure for the appointment in the High Courts as well as in the Supreme Court, with the formation of national judicial appointment commission, But, after the cancellation of this NJAC bill 2014 by Apex court on the basis of infringement in the independence of judiciary lead to the present controversy. The person near to the Justice Misra refuses all such allegations which were targeted to him but still a patch of nepotism always revolved around him and this patch again paved the path for the need of judicial appointment bill in a new form as soon as possible.