Supreme Court judge Jasti Chelameswar along with other judges addresses a press conference in New Delhi on Friday. (Source: Ravi Choudhary/PTI)

Judges Can’t Behave Like Company Shareholders, Says Former Attorney General Sorabjee

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The public perception about the Supreme Court of India would “definitely” be affected as four senior judges of the apex judicial body went public about their differences with the sitting Chief Justice of India, according to former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee.

In an interaction with BloombergQuint, Sorabjee critised the manner in which the four judges chose to make there grievances public.

Even assuming that the other judges had a point of view, they can’t call a press conference. This is not done. They’re judges of the Supreme Court. And they should behave in a manner that doesn’t affect the image of the institution in the eye of the public.
Soli Sorabjee, Former Attorney General of India

Here are the edited excerpts from the interview.

What impact will this have on the Supreme Court and the public perception?

Not a very good impact at all. The public image of the judiciary will definitely be affected. After all it is not a matter of majority or minority shareholders. Even assuming that the other judges had a point-of-view, they can’t call a press conference. This is not done. They’re judges of the Supreme Court. And they should behave in a manner that doesn’t affect the image of the institution in the eye of the public. I am very distressed that it has happened. Maybe they have a point of view, but that’s no way to go about it. You cannot attack the chief justice like this. I am very unhappy that it happened.

Would you think that these four judges would’ve taken an option as extreme as this unless all other efforts had failed?

I don’t agree. Going public is not the way to resolve this. They should’ve still made an effort to meet the chief, talk with him discuss with him. I’ve told you, this is not a case of a company, with majority or minority shareholders. Judges don’t hold press conferences to air their differences with other members of the judiciary, especially the chief justice.

What would you say of the allocation procedure at the heart of this controversy?

I really don’t know how correct these allegations are. I assume they have a point-of-view, assume they have their grievances against the chief justice. I am very opposed to the manner of doing it. After all they’re Supreme Court judges, if they go on a disarray about this what will the public think? The whole idea of public perception is very important. That’s an important factor in the independence of the judiciary. This is something which should not have been done.

What needs to be done now?

What can be done now is that let better counsel prevail. Let there be better understanding. They should meet the chief, because he is the head of the judiciary, the first among equals. They should sort it out in good spirit. They must set an example.

Judges cannot act like shareholders in a publicly listed company.

Will this undermine the independence of the institution and increase interference from the executive?

Not undermine, the executive will not do anything about it. The government has no role to play in this. They have to sort it out themselves, and I hope they do it.

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