The Nature of Judicial Power: An Ungodly Jumble

Hon’ble Chief Justice of India is as important as Hon’ble Prime Minister. 2010-2020 has witnessed 11 CJIs and 2 PMs. One wonders why 65 is the retirement age for a Supreme Court Judge. He cannot be presumed to be dysfunctional post-65, if at 69 one can be an effective PM. 2000-2010 had witnessed 9 CJIs; 1990-2000 had witnessed 10. These numbers 11, 9, 10 are not ordinary. Judiciary is not Soccer, Baseball or Lacrosse. Every CJI and Judge has his/her own method. CJI No. 47 is not expected to only act in a manner that compliments CJI No. 37. The same is not possible.

We remember, Hon’ble Justice T.S. Thakur [(2014) 9 SCC 129] overruled Hon’ble Judges P. Sathasivam and J.S. Khehar [(2013) 10 SCC 72]. Eventually, they were all CJIs. But neither was Hon’ble Justice T.S. Thakur a Chief Justice at the time of (2014) 9 SCC 129 nor were Hon’ble P. Sathasivam and J.S. Khehar a Chief Justice at the time of (2013) 10 SCC 72. We also remember, Hon’ble Justice J. Chelameswar held a different opinion, on a similar issue, with Hon’ble Justice A. Kabir [(2012) 5 SCC 511] and with Hon’ble Justice R.M. Lodha [(2013) 4 SCC 776]. Eventually, both Hon’ble Justice A. Kabir and Hon’ble Justice R.M. Lodha were CJIs. But neither of them, respectively, was a Chief Justice at the time of (2012) 5 SCC 511 and (2013) 4 SCC 776. It is, of course, understood that we live and we learn. 2020-2030 shall witness, at least, 8 CJIs, if the CJI after Hon’ble Justice S. Kant unexpectedly holds his position from February, 2027 to January, 2030. Interpretations of law are destined to change. This constant evolution, in the nature of CJIs and his Judges, is taxing.

Hon’ble Justice K. Joseph on NJAC was brief, as compared to others. In retrospect, he regrets his decision. Hon’ble Justice A.R. Dave, once, could not ‘persuade’ himself to share the ‘same view’ as CJI A. Kabir [(2014) 2 SCC 305]. He plainly admitted of having “run against time, as the CJI was to retire within a few days”. In retrospect, he conceded, “there was no discussion among the members of the Bench before pronouncement of the Judgment in CMC Vellore. Hon’ble Justice A.M. Khanwilkar held a different opinion, on Sabarimala, with CJI D. Misra and CJI R. Gogoi. CJI P. Sathasivam, when concluding on sexual harassment allegations against Hon’ble Justice A.K. Ganguly, said, “considering the fact that the said intern was not an intern on the rolls of the Supreme Court and that the concerned Judge had already demitted office on account of superannuation on the date of the incident, no further follow up action is required by this Court.” We have heard no such statement from Supreme Court on sexual harassment allegations against CJI R. Gogoi. In Senior Advocate, Rajeev Dhavan’s words, “Justice Gogoi was absolved by a questionable due process, and then the Central Government persuaded the woman not to file further internal proceedings on the promise of reinstatement for her relatives and herself. This cloud will remain on his tenure, and the Court”. Hon’ble Judges R. Gogoi, J. Chelameswar, K. Joseph and M.B. Lokur in January, 2018 questioned the integrity of not only CJI Dipak Misra but also, by implication, of their Junior Colleagues. Interestingly, Hon’ble Judges R. Gogoi and J. Chelameswar had also held a different opinion, on an issue concerning President Pranab Mukherjee, when under CJI A. Kabir [(2013) 2 SCC 239]. However, in Senior Advocate, Rajeev Dhavan’s words, at the necessary moment, ‘like his predecessor, Justice Gogoi (too) used his powers as Master of the Roster to manipulate Benches”. The description is not untrue. The frame of mind to oppose a CJI is questionable, thus.

It is obvious that a monopoly of knowledge may be valuable, whether it be knowledge of a place where a person has discovered gold or of means of deciphering cryptograms. The value of secret knowledge as such depends upon ability to keep it secret and the possibility of persuading other people to pay for being let into it. The constant evolution, in the nature of CJIs and his Judges, is secretive. We hope and pray, CJI S.A. Bobde remains honest and controversy-free.Jumble.jpg