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Judiciary needs protection from itself, says Soli Sorabjee

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Justice Chelameswar didn’t have authority to constitute a bench; CJI didn’t have to hurriedly nullify the bench and constitute a new one, eminent jurist says.

New Delhi: Controversies such as the recent brinkmanship involving the two top judges of the Supreme Court brings down the image of the judiciary and the institution needs protection from itself, eminent jurist and former Attorney General of India, Soli Sorabjee said.

“The judiciary needs protection from itself…different benches, if they intervene in different matters, it brings down the image of the judiciary and (it) becomes a target of criticism,” Sorabjee said. The judiciary, he said, needed to evolve a coherent policy about its intervention in certain matters.

Sorabjee was speaking to ThePrint Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta for NDTV’s ‘Walk the Talk’ show which was telecast this weekend.

The Supreme Court of India has been at the centre of a storm this month over allegations that there may have been attempts to influence the higher judiciary to change the outcome of a case involving a medical college in Uttar Pradesh that was heard by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the second most senior judge, had in response to a petition set up a constitution bench to probe the allegations. But Misra set up a constitution bench on 10 November which reiterated that as the administrative head of the court, only the CJI can set up benches and allocate cases to judges.

The constitution bench recalled an order passed by justices Chelameswar and Abdul Nazeer to refer the controversial case to a constitution bench of the five senior-most judges of the court, and instead sent the case to a three-judge bench it picked.

The three-judge bench dismissed the writ petition seeking a judicial probe into allegations that attempts were made to bribe SC judges to influence cases.

“Both the judges acted within certain constraints,” Sorabjee said. Chelameswar, he said, did not have the authority to constitute a bench as the chief justice was the master of the roster. But there also was no need for the chief justice to hurriedly nullify the bench and constitute a new one, he added.

Sorabjee also touched upon what he said is the misuse of public interest litigation in the country.

“People must realise that PIL is not a pill for every ill,” he said. The problems are, “private interest litigation, political interest litigation and publicity interest litigation that affects everyone including lawyers and judges”.

CJI Misra echoed these sentiments Friday when he dismissed at least four “frivolous” PILs including one filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy. “Look where it has come to…PIL was originally conceived for the poor and marginalised,” Misra was reported as saying.

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