Outside interference in judiciary

Justice Kurian Joseph who has just retired from the Supreme Court has made some startling revelations. He has said that there was a time when he and three of his brother judges – Justices Ranjan Gogoi (now the CJI), J. Chelameswar and Madan Lokur – felt that the then Chief Justice of India, Dipak Mishra, was “being controlled from outside”, that he was “not taking decisions independently” and that he was allocating cases to “benches headed by select judges with political bias”. This “outside influence” also worked in the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and the High Courts. For obvious reasons Justice Joseph stopped short of identifying the “outside agency” that controlled the CJI.
This is the first time in independent India’s history that such a serious charge of outsiders controlling and influencing the highest judiciary of the land has been made. Today when every institution of the State, every authority created by the Constitution is under attack from the powers that be and their independence is being sought to be subverted, the judiciary remains the only and the last resort of the citizens against the arbitrary acts of the State. So, it is very natural that the independence of the judiciary should come under attack and its independence sought to be compromised. Once the judiciary, especially the higher judiciary, comes under the control of the government, India will truly become a ‘democratic dictatorship.”
Though Justice Joseph has not identified the ‘outside control’ there are certain significant pointers. When the Congress sought to move a resolution in the Lok Sabha for the impeachment of the then CJI Dipak Mishra, it was none other than the Prime Minister himself who attacked the Congress from public platforms and accused it of “intimidating’ the judiciary by trying to impeach the CJI. Impeachment of the Chief Justice is perfectly legal and constitutional and there are standard procedures for impeachment. As long the legal and constitutional requirements are fulfilled, introducing a motion of impeachment cannot be called “intimidatory”. The Prime Minister’s reaction to the Congress’ move to impeach the CJI is suggestive of the agency that sought to control the CJI and made him allocate politically sensitive cases to select judges with their known political bias. The four judges who took the unprecedented step (in an unprecedented situation) of calling a press conference to expose the looming threat to the judiciary earned the people’s gratitude. But the threat still exists.

Sunday, 9 December, 2018