Retired Supreme Court judge Justice Kurian Joseph recently claimed that India’s former chief justice Dipak Misra was being controlled from outside. He further claimed that some cases were being allocated by Misra to judges with political bias. Regarding this issue, Justice Joseph and three other senior judges, Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi and Madan B Lokur, had held a press conference on January 12.
“External influences” controlling Misra
“There were several instances of external influences on the working of the Supreme Court relating to allocation of cases to benches headed by select judges and appointment of judges of the Supreme Court and high courts,” said Justice Joseph, talking about what went wrong within the months during which Justice Misra had taken over as CJI.
He further said that since he felt that someone from outside was controlling Misra, they asked the CJI to “maintain independence and majesty of the Supreme Court”. But when their attempts did not succeed, they had to hold a press conference, reported The Times of India.
At the well-known press conference, the functioning of then CJI Misra was questioned by the judges. A petition seeking probe into the suspicious death of Judge B H Loya was discussed before the bench.
On April 19, 2018, any foul play was ruled out by the Supreme Court in the death of Judge Loya.
A 209-page criminal writ petition has been filed by advocate Satish Mahadeorao Uke before the Bombay High Court’s Nagpur bench alleging that judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya did not die of heart attack but due to radioactive isotope poisoning. He has also complained of threats to his own life.
The press conference
An open revolt was staged by Justice Joseph and three other senior judges of the Apex Court on January 12 by the means of an unprecedented press conference. In the press conference, the judges flagged their concerns regarding sensitive cases being allocated to judges with political bias.
“The then CJI was working under some influence of some external source. He was remote-controlled by an external source,” said Justice Joseph, who retired on November 29.
However, he was unwilling to elaborate either on who the “external source” was or which the cases with a bias were, reported Business Standard.
Justice Joseph said that it was the unanimous decision of all the four judges to hold the press conference. The development has been termed as “extraordinary” by Justice Chelameswar, as reported by The Wire.
“We tried to persuade the CJI that some things are not in order and he needs to take remedial measures. Unfortunately, our efforts failed. We all believe that the SC must maintain its equanimity. Democracy will not survive without a free judiciary,” Justice Chelameswar said.
Justice Kurian Joseph
From a humble beginning, it was Justice Joseph’s determination to rise in his profession. In his career, he has written over 1,000 detailed judgements and disposed of 8,612 cases. His tenure in the apex court has been of five years and eight months.
He began his practice in the Kerala High Court at the age of 26 in 1979, where his father worked as a clerk. His steady rise began when he was in 1994 appointed Kerala’s additional advocate general. In 1996, he was appointed as a senior advocate.
Justice Joseph mentioned how proud a moment it was for him when he took oath as a judge in the same place where his father worked as a clerk. His father’s income was not enough to run a household as large as theirs, with seven children. “I used to go to school barefoot and got my first slippers when I was in class 7. But we never even thought of complaining as hardship was a part of life,” he said.
The same prayer that plays on Justice Joseph’s lips every time he takes up a case is that because of his own lack of knowledge and not enough preparation on his part, justice must never be denied to a person who deserves it. He further said that every single case file was read by him and that only for research purposes were his law clerks utilised.