- There is absolutely no doubt that the Chief Justice of India is the master of the roster. So, it is impossible to dispute the legal reasoning behind Chief Justice Dipak Misra’s ruling that no one but he can decide the composition of Benches and allocation of judicial work in the Supreme Court.
- However, the circumstances in which he had to assert this authority have the potential to greatly diminish the court’s lustre. The scenes witnessed in the court amidst troubling allegations of possible judicial corruption are worrisome for their capacity to undermine the high esteem that the judiciary enjoys. Chief Justice Misra chose to stick to the letter of the law, but there remain troublesome questions about potential conflict of interest in his decision to overrule Justice J. Chelameswar’s extremely unusual order that delineated the composition of a Constitution Bench to hear a writ petition seeking a fair probe into the corruption allegations. It is a fact that in the Prasad Education Trust case, the petitions alleging that some individuals, including a retired Orissa High Court judge, were plotting to influence the Supreme Court, had been heard by a Bench headed by Chief Justice Misra. However, it would be perverse and irresponsible to attribute corrupt motives without compelling evidence. At the same time, by heading the Bench himself, the Chief Justice may have contributed to the perception that he will preside over a hearing in his own cause, rather than leaving it to another set of judges to reiterate the legal position on who has the sole say in deciding the roster.
- Justice Chelameswar, the senior-most puisne judge, may have passed his order based on the petitioner’s claim that there would be a conflict of interest were the Chief Justice to choose the Bench. But in doing so, he chose to ignore the principle that allocation of judicial work is the preserve of the Chief Justice. Both justices may have found themselves in a situation in which law and strict propriety do not converge. As for the lawyer-activists involved, it is one thing to flag corruption, another to foster the impression that they want to choose the judges who will hear them. The only way to end the current turmoil in the judicial and legal fraternity is to ensure that the Central Bureau of Investigation holds an impartial probe in the case registered by it. The involvement of serving judges may only be a remote possibility, but it is vital to find out whether the suspected middlemen had any access to them. An unfortunate fallout of the controversy is the perception of a rift among the country’s top judges. To some, the charges may represent an attempt to undermine the judiciary. These perceptions should not result in the sidestepping of the real issue raised by the CBI’s FIR: the grim possibility of the judiciary being susceptible to corruption. Tumult and turmoil should not overshadow this substantive issue.
Turmoil: a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty.
Example: The country was in turmoil
Synonyms: confusion, upheaval, turbulence, tumult, disorder, disturbance
Allocation: the action or process of allocating or distributing something.
Example: More efficient allocation of resources
Synonyms: allotment, assignment, distribution, apportionment
Dispute: a disagreement, argument, or debate.
Example: A territorial dispute between the two countries
Synonyms: debate, discussion, disputation, argument, controversy
Circumstance: a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action.
Example: We wanted to marry but circumstances didn’t permit
Diminish: make or become less.
Example: A tax whose purpose is to diminish spending
Synonyms: decrease, lessen, decline, reduce, subside, die down
Lustre: a gentle sheen or soft glow, especially that of a partly reflective surface.
Example: The luster of the Milky Way
Synonyms: sheen, gloss, shine, glow, gleam, shimmer, burnish, polish
Amidst: surrounded by; in the middle of.
Example: Our dream home, set amid magnificent rolling countryside
Synonyms: in the middle of, surrounded by, among, amongst
Esteem: respect and admiration, typically for a person.
Example: He was held in high esteem by colleagues
Synonyms: respect, admiration, acclaim, approbation, appreciation, favor
Delineate: describe or portray something precisely.
Example: The law should delineate and prohibit behavior that is socially abhorrent
Synonyms: describe, set forth/out, present, outline, sketch, depict
Perverse: showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.
Example: Kate’s perverse decision not to cooperate
Synonyms: awkward, contrary, difficult, unreasonable, uncooperative, unhelpful
Perception: the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
Example: The normal limits to human perception
Converge: come together from different directions so as eventually to meet.
Example: Convoys from America and the UK traversed thousands of miles to converge in the Atlantic
Synonyms: close in on, bear down on, approach, move toward
Impartial: treating all rivals or disputants equally; fair and just.
Example: Independent and impartial advice
Synonyms: unbiased, unprejudiced, neutral, nonpartisan, nondiscriminatory
Susceptible: likely or liable to be influenced or harmed by a particular thing.
Example: Patients with liver disease may be susceptible to infection
Synonyms: open to, receptive to, vulnerable to, an easy target for