Move evokes mixed response
The unprecedented move of the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court to hold a Press conference sent shockwaves among the legal fraternity which appeared divided over their decision. If some sections justified the judges' move others decried it saying their stance raised a question mark about the credibility of the judicial system.
Attorney General KK Venugopal said the four judges could have avoided the presser, while one of his predecessors Soli Sorabjee said, it would have severe repercussions on the functioning of the judiciary. “I am very upset about this. I wish the four SC judges hadn't done this. This will have severe repercussions on the judiciary,” he said.
BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, who is also a lawyer, however, said when such judges come out to do a Press conference, it is necessary to take them seriously rather than finding fault. Swamy said the Prime Minister should take an initiative and contact the Chief Justice and the four judges to resolve the whole situation through the process of consultation.
But former Union Law Minister Hansraj Bhardwaj said it's the loss of prestige of the entire institution. “If you lose public's trust what remains? Judiciary must remain pillar of democracy. It's responsibility of Law Minister to see how it functions,” he said.
Another former Law Minister Ashwini Kumar said it was “a sad day for Indian democracy.” “This Press conference is a strike at the root of the institutional integrity of the higher judiciary. It has raised question marks about the credibility of the system as such and has directly cast aspersions at the head of the Indian judiciary.
Justice RS Sodhi also questioned the move of the top judges and asked how they can administer the Supreme Court through press conferences. “I am so pained at the outcome of the things... It is appalling. How can you administer Supreme Court by press conference? Are you going to hold a referendum and ask people what is right and wrong,” Justice Sodhi said.
Justice Mukul Mudgal said the four senior-most judges were bringing the issues to light which according to them was necessary to be brought to the public notice. He said they must have had compelling reasons to go public and “they are not publicity hungry judges and do not crave for unnecessary publicity”.
Terming the presser as “a welcome step”, senior lawyer Indira Jaising congratulated the four judges for the “bold move” and said: “As they said they are discharging a debt to history, namely to let the nation know that something is going wrong and needs to be corrected.”
Advocate Prashant Bhushan also termed the event as unprecedented and said the judges took extreme decision to hold Press conference under compelling circumstances. “These four judges are very responsible. If they are doing this, the situation would have definitely gone out of control. They said the CJI was misusing his administrative powers to allot all cases,” Bhushan said.
Senior lawyer KTS Tulsi said the step was quite shocking and one had never thought that “things would come such far compelling the four senior-most judges to adopt this course of action.” “I am sure they (four judges) have exhausted all other remedies. One could see pain on their faces while they were speaking,” Tulsi said.
Former union minister and senior advocate Salman Khurshid said, “I can only hope that conversation among the judges will not snap and will continue and that with accommodation and logic it will be settled. It has come too far,” Khurshid said.”I think the people of this country who have had highest regard to the highest judiciary will now be forced to think aloud as to whether we have gone gravely wrong somewhere,” he said.
“This is a black day for Judiciary. Today's Press conference would cause a bad precedent. From now on every common man could look at all judicial order with suspicion. Every judgement will be questioned,” senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam said.
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