Cong keeps glare on allocation of cases

Abhishek Singhvi

New Delhi: Congress politician and senior lawyer Abhishek Singhvi believes that the allegation by four senior apex court judges about the Chief Justice of India allocating cases "selectively" to preferred judges cannot be treated as an "internal" judicial matter but is "linked to the government".

Singhvi told The Telegraph on Saturday: "The issues raised by the four judges are of critical significance. The question is: are these issues not linked to the government?"

He added: "Just before the press conference by the four judges, something happened regarding allocation of a case. These judges met the Chief Justice of India. The issue was regarding assignment only - they were not discussing a picnic."

A key case was assigned to Justice Arun Mishra, 10th in seniority, on Friday over the purported protests of the quartet. Justice Mishra will hear a plea for a probe into the December 2014 death of special CBI judge B.H. Loya, who was hearing a fake encounter case in which BJP president Amit Shah was an accused. Shah was discharged days after Loya died.

Asked at the news conference whether the quartet's grievances had any relation to the Loya case, Justice Ranjan Gogoi - one of the four judges - had said they had.

Although the four judges - who included Justices J. Chelameswar, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph - did not specify any other case, Singhvi has in a tweet pointed to four cases.

He has said the judges "are obliquely referring to (1) Asthana case, originally with (Justice) Gogoi (2) Aadhaar case, originally with (Justices) Chelameswar & (Sharad) Bobde (3) Loya case (4) memo of procedure regarding judges' appointment(s), originally with bench of (Justice Adarsh) Goel".

The first case was an NGO's challenge to the appointment of IPS officer Rakesh Asthana as CBI special director on the ground of his name figuring in an income-tax probe. Aadhaar's constitutionality has also been challenged.

A tweet from former law minister Salman Khurshid too hinted at a government link to the judges' spat.

"Coincidence or interference of government causing stress to constitutional institutions. Sad exposition of trouble in the Supreme Court. Nero fiddles," he posted, without elaborating.

A message on the Congress's website said: "It is not just the judiciary that is under siege. Venerable institutions like the Election Commission of India and the Reserve Bank of India have been under stress for sometime now."

Senior Congress politician and top lawyer Kapil Sibal said in an Indian Express article: "In the case of the present CJI, the assignment of certain particularly sensitive cases to benches is without reference to established norms and precedents. This untrammelled power is not subject to any scrutiny and is exercised in his chamber. This is worrisome.

"Settled norms should guide the CJI, leaving no room for suspicion.... If matters pending before a bench are transferred to another bench by an administrative order of the CJI, that does raise issues of concern, especially when the RTI does not apply to matters relating to the SC."


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