Grievous blow to SC credibility

Grievous blow to SC credibility

The open differences within the Supreme Court and the conflict among judges over an issue involving the court's procedures and substantially over suspected judicial corruption have diminished the court's standing and image. Such a situation is unprecedented in the court, with a two-judge bench headed by the second senior-most judge, Justice Chelameswar, deciding that the matter before the court be heard by a Constitution bench, and another bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, Deepak Mishra, annulling the order, and senior lawyers shouting and screaming in the court. A bench constituted by the CJI later dismissed a petition seeking probe by a special investigation team (SIT) into alleged judicial corruption in a case involving a blacklisted Lucknow medical college. The CBI is investigating the case and a former judge of the Orissa high court has been arrested for accepting money and holding out a promise to influence the Supreme Court in the matter concerning medical admissions.  

The CJI was right in asserting that he is the master of roster and the power to decide the composition of benches and allocation of judicial work is solely his. Justice Chelameswar erred when he took this power in his hands, and this would have set a bad precedent. The court's work would be in disarray if judges decided to constitute benches and give work to themselves or other judges. But that Justice Chelameswar may have acted so out of a view that there was a conflict of interest involved in the case, which makes a decision by the CJI improper, is not without merit. Though the CJI's name is not directly involved in the case and in the FIR, a judgement previously given by him in a related matter made it desirable that he did not handle the case. That is why a request for his recusal was made.  

True, violation of rules and procedures was involved, but the heart of the matter is corruption in the higher judiciary, which has come into focus with the case and the events of the past week. The arrest of a former high court judge is a sign of the rot and, unfortunately, the matter was not handled well by the court. The series of events and decisions showed that there is no credible system to deal with such issues. The CJI asserted his administrative authority but it has left the doubt whether his administrative prerogative took precedence over the need for justice to be done and to be seen to be done. The court's reputation and credibility has badly suffered and its ability to deal with charges against its own ranks has come into question.  

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