The four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court — who rebelled against the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra over alleged arbitrary allocation of work — have proposed setting up a panel of future CJIs to suggest measures to resolve the ongoing crisis.
Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph made the proposal after consulting the future CJIs — Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, Uday U Lalit and DY Chandrachud, sources privy to the discussions said. Justice Gogoi is supposed to succeed Justice Misra as the next CJI on October 3, if the line of succession is not disturbed.
The rebel judges wanted the panel of future CJIs to suggest a transparent institutional mechanism for allocation of cases in accordance with the roster notified by the Supreme Court’s Registry.
Second, the rebel judges also wanted the CJI to announce setting up of the panel of future CJIs to the media — a demand Justice Misra is hesitant to accept as he has chosen not to go public about internal squabbling of the judiciary. Justice Misra has been asserting that he is the master of roster even as the four senior-most rebel judges questioned the arbitrary allocation of work and demanded transparency. Under the present system, nobody, except the CJI, knows what the roster is and which Bench can hear what type of cases.
In an unprecedented move, the four senior-most judges had on January 12 held a press conference and accused CJI Misra of arbitrarily allocating work to his colleagues. The situation in the top court was 'not in order' and many 'less than desirable' things had taken place, they had said.
Since then, there have been several rounds of talks between the two camps as well as mediation by Bar Council of India chairman, Manan K Mishra, and Supreme Court Bar Association president, Vikas Singh, but the stalemate continues.
A meeting between the two sides expected to be held on Wednesday could not take place as Justice Chelameswar was on leave. On Tuesday, CJI Misra and two of the rebel judges were seen together at an SCBA function for the first time since the controversy arose. Justice Joseph was seen shaking hands with the CJI.
The CJI has not formally responded to the proposal to set up a committee of future CJIs, the sources said, adding he was understood to be open to the idea of forming a panel but not that of future CJIs.
Third, the rebel judges wanted the suggestions/steps to be uploaded on the top court’s website after finalisation to inform all concerned about the practice that would be put in place. They have demanded that the suggestions finalised to be implemented on the administrative side, the sources said.
But perhaps the most important point of their charter of demands is to make the measures suggested by the panel of future CJIs binding, something the CJI is said to be non-committal about.