On January 13th, 2018 four judges unexpectedly came out against the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra allegedly exposing a rift between the Chief Justice and the Senior Judges of the Supreme Court. They criticised the allocation of important cases between the judges of the Supreme Court.
The judges stated that important cases such as the Loya death case, the Aadhar case and the Triple Talaq cases were all allocated to junior judges with little experience. The judges approached the Chief justice in order request to him to reconsider the allocations, but were denied even when they threatened to go to the media. Left with no choice, they were forced to speak to the media which they are actually prohibited to do.
The Aadhar case is being judged by a five-judge bench, of which the second senior-most member is only the sixth in seniority in terms of the judges appointed to the Supreme Court. Previously, this bench was headed by Justice Chelameswar himself, which could have caused him to have an issue with the allocation.
The four judges questioned the tradition of the Chief Justice of India assigning cases to the benches and also the memorandum of procedure, which are basic guidelines for appointing judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts.
Another major case where the CJI abruptly changed benches to reverse orders was in the Medical College Scam where a petition seeking to investigate a former Odisha judge who was allegedly taking bribes from a medical college, by assuring them that they would get favourable judgements in the Supreme Court. The bench which was abruptly chosen by the CJI fined the petitioners 25 lakhs for making charges without evidence and the bench also called the petition contemptuous.
The judges worry that for some time now, cases of national importance have been given to benches of the Chief Justice’s preference rather than that of seniority and experience.