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Former top judges join criticism of India’s Chief Justice

Two of the retired judges said it was important to support the group of Supreme Court judges because they had taken the bold step of speaking out publicly to protect the sanctity of the most important institution of India

New Delhi: Four former senior Indian judges on Sunday released a letter in support of a group of Supreme Court judges who on Friday openly criticised the way the top court was functioning.

The retired judges — including a former Supreme Court judge and a chief justice of the Delhi High Court — confirmed they had issued an open letter to the Chief Justice of India after four Supreme Court judges held a press conference on Friday in which one of them warned that the nation’s democracy was under threat because of the way the top court was being run.

The four sitting judges of the Supreme Court had criticised distribution of cases to judges and raised concerns about judicial appointments in the nation’s highest court under Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

Misra has not responded to their allegations.

“We agree with the four judges that though the chief justice of India is the master of roster and can designate benches for allocation of work, this does not mean that it can be done in an arbitrary manner such that sensitive and important cases are sent to hand-picked benches of junior judges by the chief justice,” the former judges said in the open letter on Sunday.

Reuters was able to confirm that the letter was drafted and signed by four former judges: P. B. Sawant, A.P. Shah, K. Chandru and H. Suresh.

Two of the retired judges said it was important to support the group of Supreme Court judges because they had taken the bold step of speaking out publicly to protect the sanctity of the most important institution of India.

Friday’s public outburst by judges prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold an emergency meeting with his law minister on Friday but the government has refused to comment.

The four former judges said in the statement that all rules and norms must be laid down clearly for allocation of cases.

“This must be done immediately to restore public confidence in the judiciary and in the Supreme Court,” the former judges said.

Meanwhile, a seven-member delegation of the Bar Council Of India (BCI) on Sunday met Justice J. Chelameswar, one of the four senior judges of the Supreme Court who went public with their differences with Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and two other justices.

The delegation met Justice Chelameswar at his residence and discussed the issue for around 45 minutes.

Early in the morning, the delegation met Justice R.K. Agrawal and thereafter Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, two days after the four judges went public with their differences with the Chief Justice. Later, the delegation met Justice Arun Mishra.

The BCI had on Saturday decided to send a delegation to meet a majority of the Supreme Court Judges on Sunday so that the crisis could be resolved at the earliest.

“The council is of the unanimous view that it is an internal matter of the Supreme Court. The council has hope and trust that the judges of the Supreme Court will realise the seriousness of the issue and in future may avoid any such situation that politicians or political parties could take undue advantage of and or which could cause harm to our judiciary,” the BCI said in a statement on Saturday.

— with inputs from IANS

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