Lowest depth of a pliant judiciary

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he famous press conference by four senior Supreme Court judges, led by Justice Chelameshwar and who included current CJI Ranjan Gogoi, described as a mutiny against the then chief justice Dipak Misra, nearly destroyed people’s confidence in the highest court of the land to deliver justice. Whatever little faith remained in them after those sensational disclosures has now been detonated by another explosive revelation by Justice Kurian Joseph, one of the four judges participating in the unprecedented presser. Justice Joseph has claimed that the former CJI “was working under some influence of some external source. In a press interview within days of his retirement, the judge went to the extent of suggesting that the then CJI was “remote-controlled by an external source”. Justice Joseph’s baring of truth is yet another confirmation that something was really rotten under the Dipak Misra dispensation.

Justice Chelameshwar, who has since settled down in his native village is Andhra Pradesh, had also hinted that he would disclose the real concerns that made the foursome judges break convention and address the media as a ‘call of duty’ to the nation, but at a more appropriate time. Justice Joseph, however, showed no such caution. Now, one wonders what more explosive stuff is waiting to be unfolded when Justice Chelameshwar opens the lid of his vault of secrecy. Despite the biggest flashpoint in the CJI’s relationship with the rest of the high judiciary, the revolting judges were still kept out of ‘preferred benches’.

Justice Misra has, of course, refused to comment on his former colleague’s charge, but it provided live ammunition to the opposition Congress party, which had even initiated a move to impeach the former Chief Justice. It expressed ‘grave apprehension of the party and of the country’ over the ‘interference with the highest levels of judiciary’. The party insisted that Justice Joseph’s reference to arbitrary bench selection, remote controls and political biases confirmed its own fears that these dangerous tendencies have been injected into the system by the BJP government.

It is the height of embarrassment for the Modi government, facing the charge that it has been systematically destroying every constitutional institution, whether it is the CBI, Central Vigilance Commission or the Election Commission. The running feud between the finance ministry and the Reserve Bank of India was the latest in the series, which posed a question mark over the independence and integrity of institutions permissible under the Modi dispensation. A subservient judiciary is the last thing a democratic system of government can ever have. If the highest court does not enjoy the freedom to act independently, it’s an unmitigated disaster for the people.