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Press Conference: The Unheard Move

Judges Press Conference: A Threat To Indian Democracy

J. Chelameshwar, J. Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph addressed a press conference for the first time in the history of India[1]at the home of J. Chelameshwar.[2]There was no other option to disclose what was happening behind the walls of the topmost court of the nation thus the press conference. Although what was thought out to be a conference was an inclination towards more Judicial Accountability but the conference, the harbinger of change, left the public exasperated at the functioning of the judges.[3]In the press conference, there was a litany of problems against the Chief Justice of India, J Deepak Mishra which compelled the other judges to conduct the conference an unprecedented move.[4]

The major issues behind the idea of the press conference was the behaviour of CJI who was acting as a master of the roster, not empowered with superior authority, legal or factual over his colleagues[5]appointed Judges on his discretion, especially hand-picked judges for political sensitive cases and also the constitution of constitutional benches.[6]

Questions were also raised about the Memorandum of Procedure for Appointments by the collegium which hasn’t been finalised yet.[7]The extraordinary event was beyond the pale and the allocation of matters was done in a manner more palatable to the executive.[8]But what gave the conference a push was the mysterious circumstances behind the death of special CBI Judge B.H. Loya.[9]who was dealing with the encounter of Sohrabuddin.[10]

Thus, due to these issues, the judges considered it better not to be referred in future as those who had sold their souls rather they considered the press conference as a last resort which is also a reflection of their impeccable record of integrity, erudition and impartiality.[11]J. Ranjan Gogoi stated that he went out of his conscience to be a part of the conference for it was the only alternative to show that the Judiciary is not working independently.[12]

J. Chelameshwar said that unless the equanimity is to be maintained in the institution otherwise the democracy will not survive.[13]In the same vein, J. Gogoi said that it was the debt of the nation which had led them to conduct the conference.[14]The judges also said that unless the Supreme Court is preserved democracy will not survive.[15]

Although there may be the arguments that the conference amounts to contempt of court but it is to state that it does not as the freedom of speech and expression is enshrined in Article 19 (1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.[16]

Though in the end, the issues were resolved with no contempt of court charges against the four judges as was said by Manan Mishra, Chairman, Bar Council of India. Although Judiciary had to be made accountable but no political party is to be given any advantage of it.[17]Thus the press-conference proved to be the safety valve to manifest the reality within the institution and the decision-making process in the highest court of the country.[18]J. Chelameshwar also raised issues about the administrative actions of the Supreme Court and the accountability for the same.[19]

it is not only confined to the supreme court but it has affected the independence of the High courts and the overall functioning of the justice delivery system.[20]The charges levied against the Chief Justice during the press conference is not the only instance where judicial accountability is questioned, grave charges against judiciary like these have become a common thing now.[21]

[1] ‘Know the four Supreme Court judges who went public against the Chief Justice’The Economic Times( New Delhi, 12 January, 2018)accessed 19 March,2019.
[2] ‘Loya case the Tipping Point, Four SC Judges Say Democracy is in Danger’The Wire(New Delhi, 12 January 2018) <> accessed on 22 March 2019.
[3] SruthisagarYamunan, ‘One of India’s most controversial judges has retired’Quartz India(02 October, 2018) <> accessed 20 March, 2019.
[4] ‘Supreme Court crisis: All not okay, democracy at stake, say four senior-most judges’Business Line(PTI New Delhi,18 January 2018accessed 19 March,2019.
[5] ‘Four senior SC judges take on CJI at press conference, allege crucial cases being allotted selectively’Firstpost(12 January, 2018) <> accessed 20 March, 2019.
[6] Kevin James, ‘A Year After Four SC Judges' Press Conference, Is Democracy Still in Danger?’The Wire(New Delhi, 12 January 2018) <> accessed 19 March, 2019.
[7] Supranote 68.
[8] Michael Safi, ‘India's top judges issue unprecedented warning over integrity of supreme court’The Guardian(New Delhi, 12 January 2018)accessed 20 March, 2019.
[9] Supranote 68.
[10] Virag Dhulia, ‘The Supreme Court Judges Press Conference: What’s In It For Us?’Youth Ki Awaaz(New Delhi, 13 January 2018)accessed 19 March, 2019.
[11] B. A. Desai, ‘Should the four SC judges have dissented publicly?’The Hindu(New Delhi, 19 January, 2018) <> accessed 19 March, 2019.
[12] Arpan Chaturvedi, ‘Perception That Judiciary Not Working Independently Led To The Rare Press Meet, Says Justice Joseph’Bloomberg(New Delhi, 08 December, 2018)
accessed 19 March, 2019.
[13] ‘Democracy is in danger: Watch the historic press conference held by four Supreme Court judges’ Delhi, 13 January 2018)
accessed 19 March, 2019.
[14] Supra(n 14).
[15] Jayanth Jacob, ‘For A Cause: Justice Kurian Joseph On Press Conference By 4 Judges’NDTV(New Delhi, 30 November, 2018)accessed 19 March, 2019.
[16] PaWang, ‘Whether the press conference hold by 4 seniors most judges of supreme court was contempt of court’accessed 20 March, 2019.
[17] ‘Supreme Court Crisis Live: Bar Council Chief Says Issues Have Been Resolved’News 18(15 January, 2018) <> accessed 20 March, 2019.
[18]‘One Year After Judges' Press Conference, SC Still Fails the Transparency Test’The Wire(New Delhi, 13 January, 2019)
accessed on 22 March 2019.
[19] ‘If I Have an Agenda, What About Other Three Judges in the Press Conference: Justice Chelameswar’News Click(23 November, 2018) <> accessed 20 March, 2019.
[20] ‘SC judges press conference: Here's how the legal fraternity reacted’Money Control(12 January, 2018)
accessed 20 March, 2019.
[21] J. Venkatesan, ‘Eight of 16 CJIs were corrupt: Ex-law minister’The Hindu, (New Delhi, 17 September, 2010)
accessed on 22 March, 2019.

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