(L to R) The four Justices are Hon. Kurian Joseph, Honl. Jasti Chelameshwar, Honl. Gogoi and Honl Madan Lokur addressing the members of the press during a last minute news conference, in New Delhi, India 12th January 2018. They are the most Sr. Judges after the Chief Justice of India. Photo Courtesy NDTV.
New Delhi, India. TheIndiaObserver.In a letter to the Chief Justice that was made public by the four Supreme Court Judges underlined that an independent judiciary is essential for a functioning democracy. Judge thanked the media for showing up on this last minute Press Conference.
Judge humbly greeted the media with folded hands and gave a brief
description. “We don’t want wise men saying 20 years from now, that
Justice Chelameswar, Gogoi, Lokur and Kurian Joseph sold their souls
and didn’t do the right thing by our Constitution,” Justice Chelameswar
said, explaining why they decided to go public with their views at what
he conceded was an extraordinary event.
On questions from the media he insisted that they must read the letter
what they have given to the Chief Justice Of India, which has most of
the points and is self explanatory. He politely refused to answer any
questions and kept directing their questions towards the letter. When
asked for the copy of the letter Judge asked the attendees to give him a
few minutes and requested a member to get the copies of the letter
made. It clearly showed the judges were not prepared for this request.
This isn’t the first time when members of the higher judiciary have
expressed a strong opinion but in the past, they had always spoken
through their judgments.
Given below is the full text of the letter issued by the four
Supreme Court judges:
Dear Chief Justice,
It is with great anguish and concern that we have
thought it proper to address this letter to you so as to
highlight certain judicial orders passed by this court
which has adversely affected the overall functioning of
the justice delivery system and independence of the high
court’s besides impacting the administrative functioning
of the Office of the Honorable Chief Justice of India.
From the date of establishment of the three chartered
High Courts of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, certain
traditions and conventions in the judicial administration
have been well established. The traditions were embraced
by this court which came into existence almost a century
after the above mentioned chartered high courts. These
traditions have their roots in the Anglo-Saxon
jurisprudence and practice.
One of the well-settled principles is that the chief justice is
the master of the roster with a privilege to determine the
roster, necessity in multi-numbered courts for an orderly
transaction of business and appropriate arrangements
with respect to matters with which member/bench of this
court (as the case may be) is required to deal with which
case or class of cases is to be made. The convention of
recognizing the privilege of the chief justice to form the
roster and assign cases to different members/benches of
the court is a convention devised for a disciplined and
efficient transaction of business of the court, but not a
recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of
the chief justice over his colleagues. It is too well settled in
the jurisprudence of this country that the chief justice is
only the first amongst the equals — nothing more or
nothing less. In the matter of the determination of the
roster, there are well-settled and time-honored
conventions guiding the chief justice, be the conventions
dealing with the strength of the bench which is required
to deal with a particular case or the composition thereof.
A necessary corollary to the above-mentioned principle is
the members of any multi-numbered judicial body
including this court would not arrogate to themselves the
authority to deal with and pronounce upon matters
which ought to be heard by appropriate benches, both
composition wise and strength wise with due regard to
the roster fixed.
Any departure from the above two rules would not only
lead to unpleasant and undesirable consequences of
creating doubt in the body politic about the integrity of
the institution. Not to talk about the chaos that would
result from such departure.
We are sorry to say that off late the twin rules mentioned
above have not been strictly adhered to. There have been
instances where case having far-reaching consequences
for the nation and the institution had been assigned by
the chief justices of this court selectively to the benches “of
their preference” without any rational basis for such
assignment. This must be guarded against at all costs.
We are not mentioning details only to avoid
embarrassing the institution but note that such
departures have already damaged the image of this
institution to some extent.
In the above context, we deem it proper to address you
presently with regard to the Order dated 27 October, 2017
in RP Luthra versus Union of India to the effect that there
should be no further delay in finalizing the Memorandum
of Procedure in the larger public interest. When the
Memorandum of Procedure was the subject matter of a
decision of a Constitution Bench of this court in Supreme
Court Advocates-on-Record Association and Anr versus
Union of India[(2016) 5 SCC 1] it is difficult to understand
as to how any other bench could have dealt with the
The above apart, subsequent to the decision of the
Constitution Bench, detailed discussions were held by the
collegiums of five judges (including yourself) and the
Memorandum of Procedure was finalized and sent by the
then Honorable Chief Justice of India to the Government
of India in March 2017. The Government of India has not
responded to the communication and in view of this
silence, it must be taken that the Memorandum of
Procedure as finalized by the Collegiums has been
accepted by the Government of India on the basis of the
order of this Court in Supreme Court Advocates-onRecord
Association (SUPRA). There was, therefore, no
occasion for the bench to make any observation with
regard to the finalization of the Memorandum of
Procedure or that that issue cannot linger on for an
On 4 July, 2017, a bench of seven Judges of this court
decided In Re, Honorable Shri Justice CS Karnan [(2017) 1
SCC 1]. In that decision (referred to in RP Luthra), two of
us observed that there is a need to revisit the process of
appointment of judges and to set up a mechanism for
corrective measures other than impeachment. No
observation was made by any of the seven learned judges
with regard to the Memorandum of Procedure.
Any issue with regard to the Memorandum of Procedure
should be discussed in the Chief Justices’ Conference and
by the full court. Such a matter of grave importance, if at
all required to be taken on the judicial side, should be
dealt with by none other than a Constitution Bench.
The above development must be viewed with serious
concern. The Honorable Chief Justice of India is duty
bound to rectify the situation and take appropriate
remedial measures after a full discussion with the other
members of the collegiums and at a later stage, if
required, with other Honorable judges of this court.
Once the issue arising from the order dated 27 October,
2017 in RP Luthra Vs. Union of India, mentioned above, is
adequately addressed by you and if it becomes so
necessary, we will apprise you specifically of the other
judicial orders passed by this Court which would require
to be similarly dealt with.
With kind regards,
[J Chelameswar] [Ranjan Gogoi] [Madan B Lokur] [Kurian Joseph]
by Shams Ahmad . Additional writing and editing by Adam Rizvi