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Four judges of India’s Supreme Court slam their chief in public

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NEW DELHI: Justices Kurian Joseph, Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan Lokur address media personnel at a news conference on 
Friday.—Reuters
NEW DELHI: Justices Kurian Joseph, Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan Lokur address media personnel at a news conference on Friday.—Reuters

NEW DELHI: Democracy in India is at stake, said four senior Supreme Court judges on Friday as they went public in an unprecedented move with complaints against Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

They said that “things are not in order” with regard to what they described as “the administration of the Supreme Court”. An independent judiciary was essential for a functioning democracy, they said.

Asked if they believed the chief justice should be impeached, they said: “Let the nation decide.”

The four are the most senior judges at the court after Justice Misra.

A slew of issues have cropped up recently, putting focus on Justice Misra. They began with a case he was hearing about corruption.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra is expected to preside over Babri Masjid land case

The CBI meanwhile was investigating a related case concerning the licence for a medical college in which the accused were said to be plotting to bribe the judges hearing the case. Justice Misra was hearing it.

When some lawyers seeking judicial accountability moved a separate bench of the Supreme Court, including some of the judges who spoke to the media on Friday, Justice Misra overruled their involvement with the medical college case and assigned it to a bench of junior judges.

The showdown also concerns dark rumours about the mysterious death of a judge who was hearing a murder case in which BJP president Amit Shah was named.

CBI judge B.H. Loya was hearing a case that accused Mr Shah of murder when he died in Nagpur in December 2014. His family alleged that his death was unnatural and came after he was offered Rs1 billion as a bribe to rule in favour of the BJP leader.

Medical records show that Judge Loya died of cardiac arrest. Within weeks of his death, Mr Shah was acquitted.

The Bombay High Court is already looking into the suspicious circumstances of the death but there have been reports that the Supreme Court may take the case under its own purview.

Justice Misra is also expected to preside soon over the crucial case of who owns the land on which the Babri Masjid stood before it was demolished by Hindu zealots in 1992.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2018