Threat to judiciary

In the seventy years that India’s parliamentary democracy has evolved, one conviction got firmly rooted in the minds of the people of this country, namely, that whatever else the Executive could or could not do, whatever overstepping of authority it might commit, it will never ever dare to do anything that impinges on the authority of the highest judiciary of the land – the Supreme Court of India. That conviction lies shattered now. What the four senior most judges of the Supreme Court have written in a seven-page letter to the Chief Justice of India and what they later said at a press conference on Friday – the holding of a press conference by judges of the Supreme Court is itself unprecedented and unheard of – make it clear that somewhere the Executive is invisibly but undeniably impinging on the authority of the Supreme Court.
Their letter to the Chief Justice is naturally couched in legal language. But what they wrote and later what they said at the press conference leave no room for doubt that they are making the allegation that the CJI is ‘bench-fixing’, that is, giving very important and sensitive  cases to particular judges who are far down in seniority. Later, in the animated public debate that followed in the media, an eminent lawyer said that one of these junior judges had links with a political party. The anguish and agony of the four senior judges become manifest from what they told reporters. They said they did not want to be accused by future generations that “we have sold our souls” and that if the present state of affairs continued then “democracy will not survive.” Very serious and disturbing statements, indeed.
One case which has been particularly noticed in the wake of the present controversy is the one that concerns the circumstances surrounding the death of Justice Brijgopal Loya, who was trying the case of murder against BJP president Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin ‘encounter death’ case. After the judge’s death, it was said that he was allegedly offered a bribe of Rs. 100 crore to give a judgment favourable to the accused which Justice Loya refused. The judge who succeeded found the accused not guilty and set them at liberty. It is this case which was allegedly given to a junior judge who, some legal personalities have claimed, was known for his proximity to a political party. All in all, something needs to be urgently done to assure the people of this country that the top judiciary is invulnerable to any insidious attempts by the Executive at the encroachment of its authority.

Friday, 19 January, 2018