Justice J Chelameswar said he was facing a relentless campaign against him just before his retirement.
New Delhi: Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the senior most judge of the Supreme Court after the chief justice of India, once again expressed his anguish over affairs in the apex court on Thursday as he refused to hear a plea filed by former Union law minister Shanti Bhushan seeking regulation of the master of roster powers of the CJI on the ground that he was facing a relentless campaign against him just before his retirement.
“Sorry I cannot take up the case, otherwise there would be one more reversal of order in the next 24-hours,” Justice Chelameswar said when Shanti Bhushan’s son Prashant Bhushan mentioned the matter before him.
Chelameswar said he was facing a relentless campaign against him just before his retirement. “Two months before my retirement, I don’t want it to be said that I am doing certain things because I want to grab some office,” said Chelameswar, and added that he did not want to leave the court with a “tirade” against him.
“I am sorry, you please understand my difficulty,” Chelameswar told Prashant Bhushan, news agency PTI reported.
Bhushan mentioned the matter in Chelameswar’s court as it concerned the master of the roster issue, and hence, could not be dealt with by the chief justice himself.
After Chelameswar turned down listing the matter, Prashant Bhushan rushed to Chief Justice Dipak Misra’s court and mentioned it there. The bench headed by CJI said, “We will look into it.”
Chelameswar’s remarks come after two recent letters written by him and Justice Kurian Joseph about alleged interference by the executive into judicial matters.
Ties between Justice Chelameswar and CJI Misra have been uneasy after he took up a plea for a probe into the alleged medical scam argued by Prashant Bhushan. That was eventually dismissed by the CJI.
Chelameswar's bench had ordered setting up of a larger bench, comprising five senior most judges, to hear a PIL of NGO Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms relating to alleged medical admission scam.
The CJI-led bench had then held that since the Chief Justice was the Master of the Roster, he alone had the prerogative to constitute benches and neither a two-Judge, nor a three-Judge bench can allocate the matter to themselves or direct the constitution of a bench.
On Wednesday, the apex court bench headed by the CJI had again ruled that the Chief Justice of India was the "first among equals" and occupied a unique position having the "exclusive prerogative" to allocate cases and set up benches to hear cases.
On January 12, with a warning that democracy is at risk, the four senior judges of the apex court, Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph mounted a virtual revolt against the CJI raising questions on "selective" case allocation and certain judicial orders, sending shockwaves across the judiciary and polity.
In an unprecedented move, these judges had convened a press conference and said the situation in the top court was "not in order" and many "less than desirable" things have taken place. Subsequently on March 21, Justice Chelameswar had shot off a letter to the CJI asking him to consider convening a full court to take up the issue of alleged executive interference in judiciary.
In that unprecedent letter, he had said the bonhomie between the judiciary and the government in any State "sounds the death knell to democracy".
The letter, copies of which were also sent to 22 other apex court judges, had questioned the probe initiated by Karnataka High Court Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari against District and Sessions Judge Krishna Bhat at the instance of Union Ministry of Law and Justice, despite his name being recommended for elevation twice by the Collegium.
In a latest development, Justice Kurian Joseph has also shot off a letter to the CJI expressing concern over the delay by the government in clearing the names recommended by the collegium in February for elevation.
The collegium had in February recommended the names of senior advocate Indu Malhotra and Justice K M Joseph, Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court, for appointment as judges of the Supreme Court.