Modi's aide at CJI's gate

Nripendra Misra

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's principal secretary, Nripendra Misra, was seen seated in his car outside the home of Chief Justice Dipak Misra around noon on Saturday, apparently to deliver the season's greetings 12 days after the New Year and a day after the government insisted that it would not interfere in the "internal affairs" of the "independent judiciary".

News agency ANI tweeted a picture of Nripendra in his car outside the 5 Krishna Menon Marg residence of the Chief Justice of India. Reports later said the principal secretary was turned away from the gate by staff who told him the judge was busy and that nobody was allowed to meet him without prior permission.

Nripendra clarified that he had dropped by at the Chief Justice's residence in his personal capacity and not on behalf of the government. "On the way to office, I stopped by at the CJI's residence and left my card at the gate with 'happy New Year' greetings. I did not meet the CJI," India Today quoted Nripendra as saying.

All through Friday, after the unprecedented news conference by four senior Supreme Court judges who questioned the Chief Justice's functioning, the government and the ruling BJP had stayed silent.

Government sources justified the silence on the ground that they respected the independence of the judiciary and had no role to play in its internal affairs. "It is an internal matter of the judiciary and the judiciary will itself sort it out. The government has no role in it," a senior minister said.

But the presence of the Prime Minister's principal secretary at the Chief Justice's gate brought the government's claim under glare. The government again chose silence, but some BJP politicians called it a "misadventure".

"It seems Nripendra Misra went on his own; he should have avoided it," a senior BJP politician said. Many in the party, however, thought it inconceivable that Modi's principal secretary could try to meet the Chief Justice on his own in the middle of a raging controversy.


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