Judiciary Does Not Want Any Accountability or Transparency, Allege RTI Activists
The RTI Act has faced resistance from the courts in recent years, especially when information is sought about their functioning as public authorities, a new report says.
Dushyant Dave speaks on Pul’s suicide note, Sahara-Birla and Supreme Court
Chief Justice Khehar
PS: In both Sahara-Birla and Pul’s matter questions have been raised regarding the constitution of the bench(es), which heard the matters respectively. Do you see a connection?
Justice Arun Mishra
PS: But what is wrong in Justice Arun Mishra being allocated the Sahara-Birla case?
Justice AK Goel
PS: We understand that during the argument in court, you kept asking for
Justice Goel’s recusal?
Alleging that the decision not to elevate the Uttarakhand chief justice “has been influenced by pressure from the government”, CJAR has demanded that the full text of Justice J Chelameswar’s dissenting note to the collegium objecting to the non-elevation of Justice Joseph be “put in public domain.”
This is the first time in the annals of the Supreme Court collegium that a member has written a dissent note. Normally such views are conveyed orally.
Pointing out that “transparency in the working of public functionaries, both the judiciary and the government, is critical in a democracy”, CJAR says, “It is ironic that there has been complete opacity from both these institutions” about “disclosing a draft of the memorandum of procedure for appointments to the High Court and Supreme Court.”
Five Questions We Have to Ask Before the Birla-Sahara Payoff Case is Buried Forever – BY PRASHANT BHUSHAN
The time has come for the judges of the Supreme Court to sit together to apply their minds and devise a way for these serious documents to be thoroughly investigated.
In her memorandum, Dangwimsai said since the matter involved the CJI and another sitting SC judge, the allegations should be "seriously investigated by a credible investigation team", a Special Investigation Team (SIT), and not a government-controlled body. She argued that composition of the SIT should be left to 3-5 judges, next in seniority to CJI Khehar and Justice Misra. The 60-page 'suicide note' of Pul, who committed suicide on August 9 last year in his official residence in Itanagar, allegedly contained details of several allegations of corruption against politicians and judges, as also against President Pranab Mukherjee.
According to the purported diary, captioned "Mere Vichar", of the former Arunachal CM, Pul blamed his suicide on corruption among Congress leaders of Arunachal and the judiciary which unseated him. Saying that her husband was under depression after his removal as CM and that 'Mere Vichar' was actually his suicide note, Dangwimsai told the vice-president: "Given the gravity of the allegations contained in the note and the fact that many of them are from his personal knowledge and that a suicide note is treated like a dying declaration, this matter needs to be seriously investigated by a credible investigation team. However, since it also involves the CJI and another sitting judge of the Supreme Court, to protect the independence of the judiciary , it should not be investigated by an investigative body controlled by the government."
Dangwimsai was accompanied by activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan, his Swaraj Abhiyan colleague Yogendra Yadav, bureaucrat-turned-activist Harsh Mander and RTI campaigner Anjali Bhardwaj. Her move to meet the vice-President followed her decision to withdraw from the SC her petition seeking a CBI probe into the death.
The letter said, "Since in this case, the allegations are also against the sitting CJI and sitting President, I am therefore addressing this request to you (Vice-President) to exercise the authority which normally the President would have exercised in terms of the Veeraswami's judgment."
The CJI had ordered the letter to be listed as a writ petition before a bench of Justices A K Goel and U U Lalit.
At the high-wattage hearing on Thursday with the CJI at its centre, Dangwimsai's counsel Dushyant Dave made the sensational claim that a former SC judge had approached him on Khehar's behalf. He also questioned the decision to turn the letter into a writ petition to be disposed of by the SC when his client had sought an administrative inquiry, as also the choice of Justices Goel and Lalit to hear the petition
Dangwimsai's letter cited the SC's 1991 judgment in the Veeraswami case where the apex court had ruled that SC and HC judges could be probed for corruption but only with the prior permission of the CJI.
The Constitution bench ruling had also said, "If the Chief Justice of India himself is the person against whom the allegations of criminal misconduct are received, the government shall consult any other judge or judges of the Supreme Court."
Dangwimsai's letter had said, "I am sure you (the CJI) will have the matter placed before the appropriate judge in accordance with the judgment in the Veeraswami case for consideration of my request."
Dave raised a series of questions and levelled many allegations. "Why was Dangwimsai's letter converted into a criminal writ petition? Why was it put up for hearing in open court for a judicial decision when the CJI was expected to take a decision on the administrative side? Is the CJI precluded from taking a decision on the letter as the allegations in the suicide note concerned the CJI's son?" Dave asked.
"We had sought an administrative direction, why was it taken on the judicial side? We want to know the reason behind it. There was a development on Monday evening. A former judge of the Supreme Court met me on behalf of the CJI. I do not want to say more. I beg your lordships to stay away from this case," Dave urged the bench of Justices Goel and Lalit.
Initially, Dave gave the impression that he was totally against the letter being put up for hearing in open court. Later, he wanted to know if it was to be put up for hearing, then why before a bench headed by a junior judge like Justice Goel, who is number 13 in seniority among the 28 SC judges.
"This letter brings forth a more serious issue than the one raised by Calcutta HC's Justice C S Karnan, which is being heard by a five-judge bench. So, why was a five-judge bench not constituted for this case? Why has it been assigned to a junior judge and not to number three (Justice J Chelameswar) or number four (Justice Ranjan Gogoi) or number five (Justice Madan Lokur)?" Dave asked.
"We will now approach the vice-president for relief as the suicide note contains allegations against the President also. If the Supreme Court decides on the letter after converting it into a writ petition, then all other avenues for remedies will be closed," Dave said. The bench permitted Dangwimsai to withdraw the letter and said the withdrawal would mean that the cause of action initiated by the widow in writing to the CJI had ended.