Indian Supreme Court judges slam top court’s administration

NEW DELHI (Reuters): Four sitting judges of the Supreme Court of India on Friday said the administration of the highest court was not in order, warning that democracy would not survive in the country unless the institution was preserved.

The judges blew the lid on a growing rift with Chief Justice Dipak Misra at a news conference, the first of its kind held by sitting judges of India’s top court, where they revealed a letter written to the chief justice a few months ago.

According to reports in the Indian media, the press conference comes amid a tug-of-war between the government and the judiciary over how to appoint judges to the high courts and Supreme Court.

“The four of us are convinced that unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country,” Justice Jasti Chelameswar said on the lawns of his residence in the Indian capital. The judge is the senior-most Supreme Court judge after the chief justice.

Chelameswar, speaking beside his colleagues, Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph, said they did not want to be accused of not having spoken up for the institution, or of “selling their souls”.

Efforts to alert the chief justice that certain things were not in order and that remedial measures needed to be taken had failed, prompting the news conference, Chelameswar said.

‘Cases assigned to benches without rational basis’

In a letter to the chief justice, the top judges of the Supreme Court said they were concerned about the selective assignment of important cases.

The letter added that cases were being assigned to benches without any rational basis.

Following the press conference, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the law minister for a meeting, the Indian media reported.

Quoting sources, the Indian media also reported that the government has termed the affair an internal matter of the judiciary and would thus not interfere in it directly.