Justice Chelameswar writes to CJI flagging ‘bonhomie between judiciary and government’

Law
His letter comes after the Karnataka HC Chief Justice initiated a probe, based on a letter from the Centre, against a judge recommended by the Collegium.
Senior Supreme Court judge, Jasti Chelameswar, has written to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on government interference in the appointment of judges in High Courts.
In his five-page letter, Chelameswar asked the CJI to convene a full court to discuss an inquiry initiated by Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari against a judge recommended twice by the Supreme Court Collegium for elevation to the High Court.
The inquiry was initiated against Judge P Krishna Bhat allegedly on the basis of a letter written by the Centre.
In 2016, the then CJI TS Thakur had asked the then Karnataka High Court Chief Justice SK Mukherjee to conduct an inquiry against Bhat on certain allegations levelled by a subordinate woman judicial officer. Bhat’s name was later recommended after the probe gave him a clean chit. However, the case has been reopened again.
Justice Chelameswar copied the 22 other sitting judges of the Supreme Court in the letter. The CJI is reportedly yet to respond.
“Someone from Bangalore has already beaten us in the race to the bottom. The Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court is more than willing to do the Executive bidding, behind our back,” the letter states.
On judicial independence, he said, “We, the judges of the Supreme Court of India, are being accused of ceding our independence and our institutional integrity to the executive’s incremental encroachment. The executive is always impatient, and brooks no disobedience even of the judiciary if it can. Attempts were always made to treat the chief justices as the departmental heads in the secretariat. So much for our ‘independence and preeminence’ as a distinct state organ.”
Further, he expressed his displeasure with the government interfering in the process of judicial appointments saying, “For some time, our unhappy experience has been that the Government’s accepting our recommendations is an exception and sitting on them is the norm. “Inconvenient” but able judges or judges to be are being bypassed through this route.”
Slamming the practice where the Centre directly communicates with High Courts, he asserted that the“bonhomie” between the judiciary and the government “sounds the death knell to democracy”, and wrote, “We only have to look forward to the time, which may not be far-off if not already here, when the executive directly communicates with the High Courts about the pending cases and what orders to be passed. We can be happy that much of our burden is taken away. And an Honorable Chief Justice like Dinesh Maheswari may perhaps be ever willing to do the executive bidding, because good relations with the other Branches is a proclaimed constitutional objective.”
“We both are mutual watchdogs, so to say, no mutual admirers, much less constitutional cohorts”, he said in the letter to the CJI.
Justice Chelameswar’s letter comes more than two months after an unprecedented rebellion in the Supreme Court. On January 12, four sitting judges of the apex court – Justice Chelameswar, Justice Gogoi, Justice Kurien, and Justice Lokur – announced to the country that the administration of the Supreme Court was not in order. In a historical press conference called by the four judges, they released an undated letter that they wrote to the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
In the letter, which was written some months prior to it being released, the judges criticised the behaviour of the CJI, especially with respect to the way the roster was maintained and the manner in which cases are assigned to the benches.
“It is too well settled in the jurisprudence of this country that the Chief Justice is only the first among the equals – nothing more or nothing less. In the matter of the determination of the roster there are well-settled and time-honoured conventions guiding the Chief Justice, be the conventions dealing with the strength of the bench which is required to deal with the particular case or the composition thereof,” the letter said.
Read: CJI is first among equals, nothing more or nothing less: What SC judges’ letter says
Also read: Rebellion at the Supreme Court: 4 judges led by Justice Chelameswar take on CJI
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