The two court masters who have been dismissed had the protection of Article 311. The question that arises is, why was there no inquiry conducted and no charges framed against them before their services were terminated. Dismissal dispensing with inquiry itself is a serious matter, not only because it affects the rights of person concerned, but also because it deprives the general public of the right to know what was the misconduct committed by the public servant.
After hearing Attorney General for India K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on February 6, 2019, in a contempt petition against advocate Prashant Bhushan initiated by the former and the Central Government, a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra of the Supreme Court is all set to decide “whether in a matter which is sub-judice, it is open to criticise the court proceedings to affect the public opinion by litigants and lawyers and protection of various other rights of the litigants are also involved; what are the rights of the litigants and what may amount to interference in the course of administration of justice”.
But apart from the obvious implications of off-the-record “parallel negotiations” by the PMO, what does this mean for the Supreme Court judgment delivered on December 14, 2018, rejecting several petitions filed for a mandamus directing the CBI to lodge an FIR in relation to the deal? While the Court is entitled take a point of view on law which may be debatable, it is not at liberty to play fast and loose with the facts. We have a right to insist that court proceedings are not manipulated by the Government by presenting half-truths in sealed cover to the court.
When the truth is stated, it does not “scandalise” the court. If it is true that the Selection Committee HPC held on January 10, 2019 did not select M Nageswara Rao as the interim director, then the question of “scandalising” the court may not arise. Moreover, the contempt application suggests that Prashant Bhushan has “scandalised” a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India. It is true that Justice Sikri was a member of the Selection Committee, but while sitting on the Committee he was not performing a judicial function but an executive function of making a selection to a post.
In a series of recusals from hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Common Cause and RTI activist Anjali Bharadwaj challenging the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as interim director CBI, Justice N V Ramana has become third judge in a row after CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justice A K Sikri, who recused himself from hearing the said PIL. The PIL was listed before a three-judge bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee.
'There is a tremendous scope for improvement in the functioning of the legal aid and advice system in the country. As the Chairperson of the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee, I got an independent open door audit conducted of the functioning of the Committee and that revealed very many things that needed to be critically examined to improve the effective, efficient and qualitative availability of legal assistance to litigants who approach the SCLSC. I think this is true across the board and it would be advisable for all legal services institutions under the Legal Services Authorities Act to conduct an open door audit.'
On last year’s unprecedented press conference by the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, Justice Lokur said, “It was worth it” and added, “It has brought about some openness in the system”. Justice Lokur also mentioned that the system needs to be changed in such a way that the review of judges for corruption is made speedier and that justice is ensured.
At The Leaflet’s ‘State of the Indian Judiciary’ programme on January 23, 2019 at the Constitution Club of India, New Delhi, Indira Jaising gave her opening remarks on Justice Madan B Lokur, whom she referred to as a ‘People’s Judge’. ‘To be a peoples’ judge, what you need is to connect with civil society, on the bench and off the bench, throughout your career. Justice Lokur certainly had that connect. He brought in the entire NGO movement to the court room and gave them space in the heart of a judicial system.’
Justice A K Sikri, the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, on Thursday, January 24, 2019, chose to recuse himself from hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as interim director CBI. PIL was listed for hearing today, January 24, 2019, before a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices A K Sikri, Abdul Nazeer and M R Shah. The matter came up before Justice Sikri after the recusal of the CJI Ranjan Gogoi from the case on January 21, 2019 and the judicial order passed by him listing the case before Court 2, i.e. bench presided over by Justice Sikri.
The task before the selection committee was to examine the suitability of Alok Verma to continue as the CBI Director. And, one critical ingredient that just had to form part of its decision was the say of the CBI Director himself. It was impermissible in law for the selection committee to dispense with the say of the CBI Director, in the familiar facts of this case.
Despite our experience with sensitive cases relating to custodial deaths, encounter and riot cases, atrocities committed by police officers and sometimes, the majority community, we were ill-prepared for the blatant and unprecedented hostility we faced in this particular matter. We were intimidated within court premises, but could not seek any recourse for the same. We had strong reason to believe that our client, Rubabuddin, was compelled to make certain decisions for the case under duress.
The purchase of the 36 aircraft was a unilateral decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and that the decision was taken without even consulting with the then Defence Minister of the country — Manohar Parrikar. That exactly is the violation. Did the Court forget to ask the Government to submit the process followed for the procurement of 36 aircraft? If so, on what confidence and based on what evidence did the Court stat in Para 22 that “Broadly, the processes have been followed”?