Upset, Justice Mishra recuses from Loya case

Illustration Ajit Ninan

The Supreme Court (SC) may be back to functioning as usual but the ripples of the judicial rift over the allocation of cases and other administrative challenges before the country's top court continue to be felt.

Noted lawyer Dushyant Dave on Sunday had made stunning allegations that Justice Mishra had links with BJP leaders.

They said they agreed with the view of the rebel judges that the Chief Justice despite being the master of roster can not assign cases "in an arbitrary manner such that, sensitive and important cases are sent to hand-picked benches of junior judges by the Chief Justice".

On Tuesday, CJI Misra met in his chambers the four judges who had aired grievances against him in a press conference last week.

"Put up before the appropriate bench", Justice Arun Mishra's order said on Tuesday, implying he no longer intends to hear the sensitive matter. CJI Misra gave a miss to four senior most judges - Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph. Instead the bench includes judges of lower seniority - Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and is headed by CJI Misra.

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The morning was, however a bit delayed, with the top court proceedings staring, unusually, 10-12 minutes late, which is very unusual on a miscellaneous day.

Justice Chelameswar had also said that all the four judges "failed to persuade CJI that certain things are not in order and therefore you should take remedial measures". The five judges will meet again on Wednesday, this person added. Although they conceded that the CJI was master of the roster, but that was "not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues".

The Maharashtra government placed the documents related to death of Judge Loya in a sealed cover before the court.

The judge was hearing the Sohrabuddin encounter case. Attorney-general K.K. Venugopal who had claimed on Monday that the storm in the apex court had blown over, admitted that he had erred in assessing the situation. From January 17, the 5-judge constitution bench will hear major cases such as those challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act and its 2013 judgment re-criminalising gay sex between consenting adults.

Justice Sawant is a retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Shah is a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, and Justices Chandru and Suresh are retired judges of the Madras and Bombay High Courts respectively.

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