VERDiCTUM NEWS DESK
Three of country’s topmost lawyers, Senior Advocates Soli Sorabjee, Harish Salve and Aryama Sundaram have spoken on the allegations against the Chief Justice. They minced no words in their scathing criticism of those who are trying to weaken the judiciary, including some of their colleagues. They were speaking to the Republic TV. Here are the excerpts from the program aired on 26th April.
Senior Advocate Soli Sorabjee
“Judges cant be terrorised in that fashion.”
Judges cant be terrorised in that fashion. It’s a very sorry state of affairs where allegations are made against the CJI. I feel very sorry about it.
Senior Advocate Harish Salve
“Why is a section more inclined to believe what the lady is saying and less inclined to believe what the highest judicial officer of the Country says?”
There is an existential crisis in the highest judicial institution, and that worries me and worries me very very seriously. Yes, we all accept that gender justice is a very important part of our Constitution. We have to have a structure in which allegations of sexual harassment are redressed and as we always say, however high or mighty you may be, the law is above you.
There is an allegation by a lady and there is a strong denial by the Chief Justice saying this is motivated. Why is a section more inclined to believe what the lady is saying and less inclined to believe what the highest judicial officer of the Country says? On that basis to say that since the lady has said so much, he must stop discharging judicial functions; that worries me.
It worries me even more because this is third in a row. We saw allegations against Justice Khehar, a Judge of sterling reputation. I met Justice Khehar in a public function. I will say in public what he told me in private. He said, all my life I have worked so hard, I am so disheartened, at times it is an effort even coming to Court. That’s what happens to a person who after dedicating his life for doing this kind of a job, at the fag end of his career, he is subjected to allegations of misbehaviour. What happened to Justice Misra we all know. This is the third Chief Justice in succession against whom there is an attack.
It would be hazardous to ignore even this confluence of events. While there is undoubtedly the need to enquire into the allegations made by the lady, three Judges of the Supreme Court headed by the 2nd senior most Judge are going to look into those allegations. So that’s one part of it. But the fact that three consecutive Chief Justices have been subjected to this kind of attack is also a matter which you need to see. That is where the second element comes in, where the Supreme Court judges have ordered an enquiry.
Attempt to interfere with the course of justice by external elements. Honestly, if the biggest purpose of the judicial intuitions today is to instil in the people of India a sense of confidence that whatever may be the allegations against the rectitude of those in political office, at least there is one institution which is, by and large, beyond the allegation of egregious corruption, and that is our judiciary, especially our Supreme Court. That is why the people of India look up to the Supreme Court and has faith in the institution.
My personal view is that the Supreme Court had, as every institution would, after a while, gone into a bit of course correction where PILs are concerned. The Court has realized that while PIL is the most potent weapon, it must very carefully scrutinize the kind of issue that is brought before it, to make sure that it doesn’t become a tool in destabilizing governments or embarrassing people or embarrassing governments. Justice Khehar was firm, he had put his foot down against PILs, Justice Misra had put his foot down against indiscriminate PILs and Justice Gogoi is known to be a very tough Judge when it comes to PILs.
Somehow, in my head, there is feeling that wherever you have seen Judges who have turned a stern eye towards scrutinizing PILs, not that they do not take up good causes, but they are very careful in the causes that they take up. This has at the same time seen they invariably attack the integrity of three consecutive Chief Justices. It didn’t gather as much momentum as far as Justice Khehar was concerned; Justice Misra and now Justice Gogoi have been subjected to the most vicious attacks and therefore I find this as a very worrying feature of what is going on.
What I feel is, somebody has made a complaint against the Chief Justice; however high he may be, he will be enquired into. So he is being enquired into. That is one dimension of the matter. But at the same time to give it such a wide canvas and say, now that these allegations have been made, he must stop working, he must recuse himself and the whole thing must be put on the front page; let’s not live in a la-la land. His reputation is tarnished; in the enquiry, whatever result may come.
I had said the same thing in the Supreme Court in the Loya Case, and the same thing I am saying today. I had told Justice Misra. I said, if you think that you can give a fair verdict which will be lauded and you are therefore hearing this case spread over three months, that’s not going to happen. If you do not hold that there is a good case for opening the enquiry, the allegation will be that Supreme Court buckled. So either Supreme Court does what they want it to do or Supreme Court buckled. Here also, you will see at the end of the enquiry. If the enquiry comes out in favor of the Chief Justice saying that he did no wrong, and these are motivated allegations, you will see what is going to happen.
Senior Advocate Aryama Sundaram
“But what is of enormous concern is the quickness with which we are today willing to tarnish the judiciary, the quickness with which, I am sorry to say, many of my fellow colleagues are also willing to immediately find fault with the judiciary.”
I want to start by making one thing clear, as Mr. Salve said, we all believe in gender protection and gender equality, so there is absolutely no stones being thrown at anyone. As far as the incidents which are being bandied about are concerned, those are subject matter of a specific probe and I don’t think anyone should even consider it because a Supreme Court panel is looking at one aspect and a probe panel looking at another aspect.
“And all that I can say to any citizen of the country is that if you hit the judiciary, you are hitting yourself.”
But what is of enormous concern is the quickness with which we are today willing to tarnish the judiciary, the quickness with which, I am sorry to say, many of my fellow colleagues are also willing to immediately find fault with the judiciary. And all that I can say to any citizen of the country is that if you hit the judiciary, you are hitting yourself. Because the judiciary is the last recourse to every citizen of India. It is the judiciary which is protecting every citizen of India and if you hit at the judiciary, you are hitting at yourself.
Look at what has happened in this very instance. It is very unfortunate. On the one hand, a committee was formed of the 2nd and 3rd senior most associate judges of the Supreme Court together with a very distinguished lady judge of the Supreme Court. Nobody could assign anything to any of these 3 people in any manner against them. But immediately, you have an objection saying that one of the judges, Justice Ramana should recuse himself because he is close to the Chief Justice and Justice Ramana in such a dignified manner has said, I will not continue.
But look at it the other way, assume that you did not ask the senior most judges to look into it and asked other judges, an immediate question would have been, why are the senior most judges not involved in it? Why is it only more junior or new judges are taken? So either way, you find fault with the judiciary, and I object to that.
There is a vehemence with which the Judiciary is being attacked, and that’s what I don’t like. If there is something, the judiciary is taking care of it. There is a panel, there is a case where probe a panel is directed by the bench, all this is going on, why attack the Judiciary? Why attack the Chief Justice of India and his office? I was shocked to hear on the television, one of my colleagues who actually said that the moment there was such an allegation, he should have immediately stopped exercising any administrative or judicial functions. This worries me.
Tomorrow, if my case is before a bench, and the bench appears to be against me, all I have to do is, have an allegation made against them, and say, now they shouldn’t conduct judicial functions anymore. We seem to forget the fact that these things are so easily said. So easily an accusation can be made, nobody is judging that accusation now. But the way everyone is talking, as if the accusation is gospel truth. What if that accusation is completely wrong?
A man’s reputation is being besmirched to the extent it has. Please allow the law to take its course; please allow the Supreme Court to function, please don’t challenge the judiciary. By doing so, you as a citizen are committing suicide.