'Want nation to know we haven't sold our souls'
New Delhi: The unprecedented news conference by four Supreme Court judges at Justice J. Chelameswar's official residence on Friday afternoon lasted 11 minutes and 30-odd seconds. Around 100 journalists were present. Amidst the din, Justice Chelameswar thanked the media for assembling at short notice - less than half-an-hour - and then the judges spoke. Excerpts:
"Friends, this is an extraordinary event in the history of a nation, more particularly of this nation, an extraordinary event in the history of this institution, of the judicial institution. With no pleasure in our hearts, we are compelled to take this decision to call for a press conference but sometimes the administration of the Supreme Court is not in order, there are many things which are less than desirable which had happened, friends.
"In the last few months time and again, as senior members of the court, and goes without saying that we are the senior-most judges of the country by virtue of our age, experience and seniority, we thought we owed a responsibility to the institution, to the nation, we tried to collectively persuade the Chief Justice of India that certain things are not in order, therefore he should take remedial measures.
"Unfortunately our efforts failed and my dear friends, all four of us are convinced that unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country... for survival of democracy it is said the hallmark is an independent and impartial judge, judiciary.....
"But since all our efforts failed, even this morning on a particular issue, the four of us went and met the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India with a specific request, which we unfortunately could not convince him that we were right....
"Therefore we were left with no choice except to communicate it to the nation, please take care of the nation, please take care of the institution... I don't want another 20 years later some very wise men in this country blame that Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph sold their souls, they didn't take care of this institution, interest of the nation, we don't want it to be said, so we place it before the people of this country. That's all gentlemen, we wanted to inform you."
The judges tried to walk away after circulating their letter to the Chief Justice, but journalists fired questions:
Question: "What are the issues? What happened this morning?"
Justice Chelameswar: "About a couple of months back, exact date and time we will give you, four of us gave a signed letter to the CJI, we will give copies of that letter... we wanted a particular thing to be done in a particular manner, that the thing was done in a particular, in such a way it left too many questions and further questions, further doubts about the integrity of the institutions..... This morning also we had to go on something like this. Four of us went, met the Chief Justice of India, made a request that a particular thing is not in order, therefore it should be rectified. In spite of four colleagues' - the four senior-most colleagues of the Chief Justice of India, four senior-most judges of the country - request, the Honourable Chief Justice of India thought we are not right."
The journalists asked repeatedly what the issues were.
Justice Ranjan Gogoi: "We are going to give you a copy of a letter which we had written two months ago on the issues.... go through the letter. You will know what are the issues. Do we have to repeat?"
Q: "Is it the Justice Loya case?"
Justice Chelameswar: "It is an issue of assignment of case...."
Q: "Is it about Loya?"
Justice Gogoi: "Yes, yes."
Nation is watching you.... since we four of us are in the first four senior-most#t, we went in the morning, we are speaking for ourselves, we didn't discuss with anybody elseQuestion: "Is it about the composition of the benches?"
Justice Chelameswar: "You read the letter, you will get answers to all the questions, just have patience."
Justice Gogoi : "You may construe it as our responsibility to the nation and nothing more. We have answered all... we have made ourselves very clear, there's nothing further."