Justice Dipak Misra refuses leniency to Yakub Memon, brings down case backlogs, puts Ayodhya on fast track, troubles real estate majors, wants justice for victims of 1984 riots, disallows defamation, has expertise in a variety of laws, delegates cases to all SC judges…
With the chorus of endorsement of the press conference held by four Supreme Court judges dated 12 January, the opposition has, since yesterday, made it too obvious that they were the ones to instigate the judges for a defiance of the service code. In contrast, the Union government has conducted itself with dignity, contrary to expectations, as the BJP’s own supporters do not often credit it with having thinking heads on top. It has desisted from issuing certificates in favour of Chief Justice Dipak Misra to counter the opposition support for Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph. Thus, while it isn’t getting apparent that this government is trying to mould the judiciary according to its whims, people have begun to suspect the Indian National Congress, communist parties, activist-lawyers, a disgruntled margdarshak and a frustrated ally want the important pillar of Indian democracy to function their way. Or else, the basic premise of the complaining judges does not impress quite, as the CJI exercising his discretionary power to allot cases is not unprecedented in the history of the apex court and 24 high courts. Making the remonstrance look more sinister is the record of the CJI’s career, before and during his tenure in the post. If Justice Misra’s decisions are wrong, or his allotment of cases is erroneous, is the INC-led opposition alluding to its reservations about the execution of terrorist Yakub Memon or the judge’s refusal to procrastinate against the argument of Kapil Sibal in the Ayodhya case? Did the opposition want a legal licence to behave like activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal when the bench headed by the CJI held that the “reputation of one cannot be allowed to be crucified at the altar of the other’s right of free speech”? The opposition must come clean on whether it has active interests in one of the parties in the SEBI-Sahara payment dispute, BCCI’s overhaul, 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom or rows over real estate majors. If they are implying that Justice Misra was not qualified to be raised to the highest judicial rank in the first place, is the experience, since 1977, in constitutional, civil, criminal, revenue, service and sales tax matters in the Orissa High Court and tribunals and his stint as the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court not illustrious enough?
In a country that carries a humongous burden of case backlogs — 2.61 crore in the lower courts, 3.5 lakh in the top five tribunals alone, 4.5 lakh in consumer courts, 6 lakh in high courts and almost 60,000 in the Supreme Court — it is unfortunate that a judge so decisive and unwavering must be viewed with doubt. The country ought to know that pendency of cases in the Supreme Court has come down by 2,174, thanks to the initiatives taken by Justice Misra. The press note issued by the Registry notes that the institution of cases in a short span of two months was 7,021, whereas the disposal during this period was 9,195 cases. Is that a problem for the opposition? If the Communist Party of India’s D Raja has been an old acquaintance of Justice Chelameswar, what necessitated his backdoor entry into the house of the latter ‘coincidentally’ on the day of the presser? If the whining judges insist that the CJI is equal to them, are the junior judges lesser arbiters to be denied the cases Justice Misra allotted to them?
The rabble-rousing brigade is better advised to question whether the highest court’s pastime and arbitrary indulgences like environmentalism, interference in Hindu rituals, entertaining a petition against a school prayer that urges God to guide the children from darkness to light, managing cricket administration, coming in the way of Tamil Nadu’s indigenous sport, etc should continue with impunity. Especially for INC president Rahul Gandhi, who now prides himself in being a janeu-dhari Brahmin, this is one opportunity to speak up against these facetious verdicts and endear to a huge vote-bank that, according to veteran Congressman AK Antony, had turned against his party in 2014.