Loya case not listed before SC on Monday

With attempts being made to defuse the crisis in the higher judiciary following unprecedented allegations levelled against the CJI, Salman Khurshid hoped normalcy would be restored by Monday

NH photo by Vipin
NH photo by Vipin

NH Political Bureau

The petition seeking an inquiry into the death of CBI special court judge B.H. Loya is not coming up on Monday before court no. 10 of Justice Arun Mishra as scheduled. The Supreme Court roster released on Saturday afternoon does not mention the case and it was explained by the Registry that the case was not listed because one of the judges will not be available on Monday.

The four senior judges who addressed an unprecedented press conference on Friday had apparently objected to the CJI assigning the case to Justice Mishra, 10th in seniority, and not to the more senior judges. And despite the petitioners pleading that the Supreme Court should not hear the petition in view of a similar petition on which the Bombay High Court had already issued notice, Justice Mishra had gone ahead with the hearing and ordered the case to be listed again on Monday.

The petitioners clearly apprehended that if Justice Mishra were to dismiss the petition, the petition before the Bombay High Court too would die.

Former Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid on Saturday refused to get drawn into a debate on the crisis in the apex court, stating that the issues were still far from clear. While there must have been compelling reasons for the four senior judges to address the press conference, the former minister quipped, he s baffled why they felt the need to address the press conference at Noon and not after court hours after 4 pm.

Khurshid added that while the letter addressed by the four senior judges to the CJI two months ago talked of the Memorandum of Procedure (MOP) for appointment of judges recommended by the previous collegium headed by the then Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, nobody seemed to be aware what the recommendations were and why the Government has maintained complete silence on it since March, 2017.

Conceding that the higher judiciary in India is assailed by structural problems, he quipped ‘there is no Supreme Court of India’ in a sense.

Elaborating, he said that unlike other Supreme Courts in the US, UK, Canada or Malaysia, the Indian Supreme Court does not sit together to hear matters of constitutional importance. Cases here are decided by a two-judge bench, three-judge bench, five-judge bench or a nine-judge bench but never by all the 28 Supreme Court judges (the sanctioned strength is higher). And with the tenure of the Chief Justice rarely exceeding a year or a year and a half, nothing really gets fixed. The structure is such, he quipped, that the highest judiciary is a prisoner of conventions.

Responding to a question on the role of the Union Law Minister and the Government, he said that while the law minister is not expected to interfere or dictate decisions to the judges, he is expected to communicate regularly with the judges, acting as a bridge and conveying the concerns of the judiciary and the executive to each other. The press conference by four judges on Friday indicated that there was not much communication between the senior most judges and the Government, he said.

He hoped that normalcy will be restored in the Supreme Court by Monday. Referring to the statement of the Attorney General K.K. Venugopal that the differences would be resolved by Monday, the former law minister said that he earnestly hopes that the CJI would reach out to the full court and resolve the differences. He was optimistic about a solution soon.

Asked to defend the stand taken by the Congress, Khurshid said that the party’s statement made it clear that it wanted the apex court to address the concerns voiced by the four judges. It also wanted the senior most judges to be taken into confidence on serious issues. It wanted conventions to be followed and finally, the party was in favour of an independent inquiry into the death of CBI special court judge B.H. Loya.

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