Talking about the recent CBI and RBI scandals, he said that these institutions losing their autonomy should have been seen as a sign when he and three other judges had held a press conference against the lack of transparency in the Supreme Court in January this year.
Former Supreme Court Judge, Justice Jasti Chelameswar, recently said that all respectable Indian institutions are under threat. He retired as the second most senior judge of the highest court in the country in June. Talking about the recent CBI and RBI scandals, he said that these institutions losing their autonomy should have been seen as a sign when he and three other judges had held a press conference against the lack of transparency in the Supreme Court in January this year.
On one hand, the director and special director of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were sent on leave over graft allegations and on the other hand, the official of Reserve Bank of India and the Finance Ministry were caught in a verbal spat over the functioning of the agency and its limits.
In an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Quint, Justice Chelameswar said, “If the highest court of this country, a constitutional organ, is disturbed in its functioning, then why talk about other organisations that aren’t constitutional organisations?”
Talking about CBI and RBI he said, “Their status is slightly lesser than constitutional. CBI isn’t even a statutory organisation. It’s a mythical beast. God alone knows what are its legal structures. In fact, there’s a judgment of the Gauhati High Court saying it has no statutory backing. The appeal is pending. The matter is still not decided by the court. I think these are matters which should be decided on priority basis. Nobody wants these things to be decided. These things, undecided, give a lot of scope for speculation. The result is all this.”
He raised pertinent questions about why was he and other judges being asked to resolve their matter internally and what came out of accusing him of having a personal agenda. “What’s happening in the CBI? What’s happening in the Reserve Bank (of India)? Apart from their legal status, are they not important institutions in the governance of this country? When we held the press conference there were people, great people, learned intellectuals, who believed that I had a personal agenda. So why is it happening in CBI? Why is it happening in the RBI?” he said in the interview.
Citizens of Justice and Peace had accessed the letter given to the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and reported that, “Four Judges of Supreme Court, J Chelameswar, J Ranjan Gogoi, J Madan B. Lokur and J Kurian Joseph wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India addressing their concern about the way allocation of few cases has been done by the Hon’ble Justice of India. In the letter, they have said the convention of recognizing the privilege of the CJI to form the roster and assign the cases is only devised for a disciplined and efficient working of the court and is not based on any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues. Also, it is too well settled in the jurisprudence of this country that the Chief Justice is only the first among the equals- nothing more and nothing less.”
They accused the Chief Justice India of assigning cases that have far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution to benches ‘of their preference’ without any rational basis for such assignment. They warned the CJI, “this must be guarded against at all costs.” “We are not mentioning the details only to avoid embarrassing the institution but note that such departures have already damaged the image of the institution to some extent”, the concerned judges wrote.
In the span of eight months following this unprecedented press conference, the CJI was declared the ‘Master of Roster’ three times by the SC.
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