Former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra was being controlled from outside and was allocating cases to judges with political bias, said retired Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph. Defending the decision to hold the January 2018 press conference, where along with him Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan B Lokur decided to go public against the functioning of the judiciary under Misra.
Joseph, who demitted office as a Supreme Court judge on Friday, said that the Supreme Court was not headed in the right direction under former CJI Misra. Joseph and three other senior judges of the top court had held a first of its kind press conference on 12 January, 2018 and said that "unless Supreme Court is preserved, democracy will not survive." They had alleged faulty "assignment of cases" and "sensitive cases being allotted to junior judges" by Justice Misra.
While speaking to journalists, Justice Joseph said he had no regrets regarding the press conference held on 12 January. Joseph, the third senior-most judge of the Supreme Court retired from the top court on Thursday after a five-and-a-half-year tenure.
In an interview with The Times of India, Joseph said that he and Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan B Lokur felt that there were several instances of external influences on the working of the Supreme Court, especially those relating to the allocation of cases to benches headed by select judges and appointment of judges in both the apex court as well as the high courts.
Joseph said all the four judges met Misra and also wrote to him regarding independence and the majesty of the Supreme Court. However, when all attempts failed, they decided to hold a press conference." "Justice Chelameswar was the initiator of the idea of press conference. But we three agreed with him," he is quoted as saying in the report.
At the press conference held at the start of this year, the judges had not only questioned the functioning of Misra but also raised questions on the way the hearing of a petition seeking probe into the alleged suspicious death of judicial officer BH Loya was assigned to a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra.
Joseph, who in his tenure of five years and eight months, had disposed of 8,612 cases and wrote over 1,000 detailed judgments, earlier said that the top court was not going in the right direction under Misra, ANI reported. "We pointed that the Supreme Court was not going in right direction. Many aspects we brought in the notice of the then Chief Justice (Misra) to put things on the proper path. Since there was no result, we thought there was no other option but to bring it to the notice of the nation," he was quoted a saying.
"There was one other reason. My position has always been that there are two watchdogs, one of which is the media. We came out to let there be an awareness that we have done our best. Despite barking the master is in deep slumber. So we decided to bite," he added, expressing no regrets about conducting the controversial briefing.
When asked whether the crisis to which they had referred was now over in the apex court, Joseph said, "You can't say it fully that the crisis is over because it was an institutional crisis, so it takes a long time for the systems and the practices to change. Hopefully, it would change". However, referring to CJI Gogoi, Joseph said, "It's because one who was part of the clamour for change is also now the captain over there so things should change".
Meanwhile, Joseph while speaking to Hindustan Times on the allegations of corruption in the judiciary said that the allegations were unfounded. He said, "I will never really agree that there is corruption in higher judiciary. If it is in the lower judiciary, it is the state's concern. In the higher judiciary, it has not come to my notice."
With inputs from PTI