(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
All too often we hear our honourable judges speak about the "trust" the people of the country have in the institution of judiciary. I am one of the people and unfortunately I lack complete trust in judiciary, one of the four founding pillars of our democracy.
My angst today is on reading in Indian Express the contents of an alleged letter Supreme Court judge, Justice DY Chandrachud wrote to his colleague Justice Bobde who is heading a three-member in-house panel, presently hearing a sexual complaint charge against the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
Before I discuss the content of the letter, I must point out my unease over such leaks which appear to happen by design than any act of intrepid journalism. Readers would recall a fortnight ago, how the letter of ex woman-staffer against the CJI reached almost at the same time to four news web portals, three of whom are identified with pro-Left leanings. All of these websites prepared almost the same questionnaire for CJI Ranjan Gogoi to answer and sent it to the latter around the same time!!! So much for coincidence.
Then look at how events unfolded. If you pay heed to events of last fortnight, you would learn a great deal how our democracy is sabotaged. First a charge is made. Then the CJI says there are "bigger forces" at work"that it's a conspiracy to deactivate the office of the CJI." He also asks media to show restraint. Supreme Court also takes note of a lawyer alleging he has proof that it's a plot to neutralize CJI. On viewing the lawyer's content, SC judges are so alarmed that they summon chiefs of Police, CBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) in private chamber even as the hearing is on!!! A three-member panel is appointed under the Memorandum of Procedure (MoP). The woman-complainant shows no trust in the panel and quits. The panel, meanwhile, continues its deliberations.
This entire episode has two sides: One, of the woman-complainant and whether she is being given fair hearing or not. Two, of the "plot" which could "deactivate" the office of CJI as part of a larger "conspiracy." Let's call the two sides of story as Story A and Story B.
Now readers, do tell me if you have seen our newspapers discuss Story B at all. The "conspiracy" angle has already been given a quiet burial. For our newspapers, it's a dud issue. All their energy is on Story A which could be genuine but could also be a part of a "plot." What if this entire episode is meant to subvert Indian judiciary?
The next logical question is: why certain media houses are so palpably partisan in this case? Or are they themselves a part of the "conspiracy"? Edits are written almost every day. Why no lens are trained on CBI, Police and ED who are probing the "conspiracy" angle. Why "news leaks" are not emerging from these probing agencies as they are "managed" from the hallowed precincts of Supreme Court judiciary?
Now let's cast a look at Justice DY Chandrachud's letter which Indian Express has got hold of. In the letter, as per Indian Express, Justice DY Chandrachud demands a full court in the sexual-complaint case; not only suggests retired women judges in an expanded court but also who these three ex-judges should be; apparently going for judges who are "apolitical and above board". Justice DY Chandrachud's letter "was not an individual view but conveyed the sense of disquiet among judges of the apex court after informal consultations with more than 17 judges," as per Indian Express.
Indian Express reveals that Justice Chandrachud in his letter has raised fundamental questions "for the reputation of the Supreme Court"because people repose 'trust in us' as we are 'fair-minded' and "even-handed."
Sorry Your Honour. Trust comes with conduct. Neither did I find the press conference of four SC judges last year an action of inspiring "trust" nor does it help that your letter appears to be an act of interference in the functioning of an ongoing three-member panel probe. I have no problem when you dissent on the scope of "Aadhaar" or give a verdict in favour of women devotees in Sabrimala Temple case but this is trespassing in your fellow judges' domain and functioning. I am not sure if your attempt "for the reputation of the Supreme Court" actually has ended up damaging it. Your father, retired Justice YY Chandrachud, the longest serving Chief Justice of India, once was part of the SC bench which abrogated the right of life under the Emergency. I hope future jurists won't view your present "letter" as a seminal moment in India's judiciary.
As an aside, I ask readers to read a few reports of Vibhor Anand, a young Supreme Court lawyer, who in his various twitter threads has claimed that judiciary is "fixed" and that appointments of judges in both High Court and Supreme Court are managed at the behest of corporate lobby. Our judiciary is in dire need of a clean-up. But how do you bell the cat which has all sweeping powers in the form of the Collegium they themselves operate in an opaque manner?