Judges at the highest level will have to set examples and must become beacons of hope

The Biggest crisis post independence hit the Supreme Court like a tornado last Friday with four senior most judges of Supreme Court breaking ranks with Chief Justice of India. Not only have they differed with the Chief Justice Dipak Misra, but they have also raised several questions that have no easy answers. Impropriety, lacking in integrity and playing favourites are the issues flagged by justices Jasti Chalameshwar, Rajan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph. The letter released at a joint press conference is in itself a huge development of sorts. Most issues have been emphasised without levelling direct charges against the Chief Justice of India. Given the fact that these four judges also form part of Supreme Court collegium has added significance and amplified the crisis in the highest court. The judges has also pointed out favouritism, cartelisation and barter arrangements among the collegium members in appointments, promotions and in assigning important cases to individuals, constitution of benches etc. Although they haven’t mentioned his name, in the joint letter issued by them, they have cited several instances that tantamount to ‘vote of no confidence’ against chief justice Dipak Misra. Stopping short of seeking chief justice’s impeachment, the quadrant have kept some room for negotiation, rebalancing power structure and streamlining procedures apart from the allotment of work. Reports in the past few months gave enough indication that not everything was business as usual in the collegium of five top judges. This seems to have precipitated on Friday with the four judges coming into open. Chief Justice Dipak Misra has not gone public so far, allowing flexibility for rapprochement with his colleagues. If Saturday’s behind the curtains happenings were any indication, prime minister’s principal secretary Nripendra Misra has been pressed into action to broker a peace deal between warring judges as that does not augur well for a thriving democracy like ours. Chief Justice has his own set of grievances against the four for reportedly ganging up and cornering him thereby throwing the court’s administration out of gear. One version from Supreme Court corridors point towards professional frustration of these judges as reason behind the revolt. Those familiar with the happenings of the collegium, are aware of the formation of this strong lobby against the Chief Justice. Also, it’s interesting to note that Chalameshwar would retire in June while Lokur is tipped to become the next Chief Justice of India. It would be most judicious if the politicians to keep away from this. The five honourable judges, learned men of stature, must find a meeting point on their own. Personal ambitions and prevarications notwithstanding, the judges will have to focus on delivering judicial services to one and all. If this episode will change the way of Supreme Court, so be it. Get the ball rolling for radical reforms in the judicial order. The five justices must close ranks to end the huge pile up in cases that run into millions at various levels. Streamlining and simplifying the processes must be attempted to make life simpler for people approaching courts in search of justice. Corruption that’s rampant in different courts will have to be taken head on. Further, making courts accessible to the poor who cannot pay for the services needs immediate attention. Your lordships, let’s not trivialise the entire judicial system, and make way for brokers, politicians and unruly elements to further mess up the already tattered judicial services. Judges at the highest level will have to make sacrifices, set examples and must become beacons of hope.