Rift “Settled” But 4 Top Judges Not In Key Bench Set Up By Chief Justice

New Delhi:  The four Supreme Court judges who publicly took on the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, have been kept out of a constitution bench that will decide on many important cases, despite the country’s top lawyer claiming that the unprecedented rift between judges had been “settled” during an informal meeting on Monday morning. “I accept that the judges conflict is not settled,” Attorney General KK Venugopal said today in a 180-degree turn from what he asserted earlier.Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph, who held an extraordinary press conference last week to voice their criticism of how major cases were assigned by the Chief Justice, are not in the five-judge constitution bench announced yesterday.

The four judges are the senior most in the country after the Chief Justice.

The constitution bench has, besides the Chief Justice, Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.

According to a roster put up yesterday, from January 17, these judges will decide on cases like the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, whether to remove a ban on homosexuality, the restriction on women entering the Sabarimala temple and whether lawmakers should be disqualified even before conviction, the moment charges are framed against them.

The same combination of judges had last year taken up the turf war between the centre and Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government.

supreme court

The constitution bench has, besides the Chief Justice, Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan

Today, petitions asking for an investigation into the 2014 death of judge BH Loya will be taken up by Justices Arun Mishra and Mohan M Shantanagoudar. The case was moved from yesterday as Justice Shantanagoudar was not available.

Judge Loya, who was deciding a case in which BJP president Amit Shah was an accused, died of a cardiac arrest while attending a wedding. According to an article in the news magazine Caravan, his family suspected his death was not natural. The judge’s son Anuj Loya, however, told the media that the death was being politicised.

Stunning the nation by addressing a press conference on Friday, the four judges spoke out against the allocation of sensitive cases to junior judges and said without an independent judiciary, “democracy wouldn’t survive”.

A key trigger was the judge Loya case being assigned to Justice Arun Mishra, whose credentials had been questioned by a lawyer.

Yesterday, Attorney General Venugopal said the Chief Justice had a chat with the four judges at the Supreme Court lounge. But a report in The Hindu newspaper quoted sources close to the judges as denying it and calling reports of a reconciliation “deliberate misinformation.”

“There was an informal meeting in the morning. Now everything has been settled, courts are functioning,” Attorney General Venugopal had said. Today, he said attempts to resolve the dispute would continue.


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