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An estimated 9-minute read
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But when his drinking and lusting and his hunger

For power became known to more and more people

The demands to do something about this outrageous

Man became louder and louder

Rasputin, Boney M.

Dear justices Chelameswar, Gogoi, Lokur and Joseph.

I hope you won’t mind my writing to you directly and publically.

I only write to accuse you of letting down me and all my fellow Indians. And I write to urge you to continue the journey that you embarked upon, on the 12th of January.

If this were a criminal trial, you would have had the equivalent of the American Constitution’s Sixth Amendment right to be confronted with the witnesses against him. Let us pretend it is one, let us hope that you will respond to this indictment.

I hope that you will be candid and when asked “How do you plead?”, you will have the moral courage to plead guilty. But I also hope that you will repent and rededicate yourselves to curing our dying judiciary.

The evils of corruption, nepotism, political patronage and arbitrariness which have for long plagued the Indian judiciary, are well known to every single person, lawyer or otherwise who is a part of, or who has had occasion to interact with the system.

Allegations of amassing of huge assets, corruption and serious irregularities against Justice Dinakaran who was, as the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court, being considered for elevation to the Supreme Court are well documented.

The case of Justice Ashok Kumar of the Madras High Court is equally well known in legal circles. The powers that be rode roughshod over the serious allegations made against him, ignoring even the damning report that the Intelligence Bureau filed against him.

Not too long ago, we also saw Justice Bhattacharya’s allegations against Chief Justice Altamas Kabir that he was trying to push through his sister’s elevation to the Supreme Court.

We may discard and disregard, disgraced Justice Karnan’s allegations – but there remains the niggling suspicion that there may be some truth in some of what he said.

It would be a simple person indeed, who was unaware of the persistent allegations that corruption (in all its forms) had taken root in the higher judiciary.

We had reconciled to the darkness and stench which pervades the system. There was nothing that could surprise or shock us further. And most importantly, we had lost all hope that things could change. For resignation is an important step towards acceptance. I accuse you of have committed the unpardonable sin of giving us hopeless people hope, and then walking away.

It takes but a moment for history to be created.

It took Gavrilo Princip a moment to shoot Archduke Ferdinand and to plunge all of humanity into the horror that was the First World War.

It took a moment on the evening of Christmas 1991, for the flag of the Soviet Union to be lowered from the Kremlin one last time, ushering in a world where the Soviet Union would no longer exist.

When I saw the four of you walking out in the lawn in front of the assembled media corps, I believed that I was witnessing a moment that would similarly uproot judicial corruption, nepotism, opportunism and caprice.

It was a giant leap indeed – for the first time in the history of the Supreme Court, you had decided, no longer to turn a blind eye to what was going on; and you had found the guts to speak out.

I trusted you, as did every Indian, that you would tell us how we could be a part of this modern day Herculean effort to clean out the Augean Stables.

I accuse you of betraying my trust.

The following is the indictment, to which I demand you respond:

  1. You showed us one letter – an explosive letter in which you had earnestly and fervently pleaded with the Chief Justice of India. You left us guessing whether the letter encapsulated all your grievances, or whether that was a tip of the iceberg. You were asked this specifically and your answer was cryptic. You did not confirm that the letter was the sum total of all your concerns. More importantly, you did not deny it.

  2. You have allowed the CJI to continue to hold the Supreme Court hostage to his capricious exercise of the extra-legal Master of the Roster practice.

  3. I demand to know whether you believe that you have been true to the oath that you took when you were elevated to the court. You swore to uphold the constitution and to exercise all the powers that We The People entrusted you with. You have allowed the CJI blinker you and now you can only read the case papers that he allows you to read. In the Constitution, we made no distinction between the oldest or the newest judge of the Supreme Court – yet you allow the CJI to treat the Court as his personal fiefdom, and you have become content to accept the scraps he sends your way.

  4. You had turned a blind eye to the way that he has been assigning important cases which affect the entire country to himself and to a small handful of judges. His actions strongly suggest that he wants to dictate the outcome of those cases – and you have refused to oppose him. Your inaction seems to suggest that you accept his reasons (and motivation) for bench-fixing. Please tell me that I am wrong and that you are standing up to this autocratic and despotic treatment.

  5. When the CJI passes illegal orders (e.g. illegally nullifying your judgments), you do not react and you allow him to further entrench his unlawful position.

  6. You even allowed the Attorney General of India to make a statement that you knew was untrue. Immediately after you shoved ajar the heavy door leading into the deepest crypts of the judiciary, he told the media and the people of India that the matter had been resolved between you and the CJI. You knew this was false and his statement made you look like a bunch of wishy washy malcontent infants, who had now been appeased with some lollipop. You failed to tell the AG to shut up, not to disrespect the office that he transiently occupied, and not to put words in your mouths.

  7. You refused to silence the idiots who love shouting on television. One word of clarification from you, and you would have deflated their noisy hot-air balloons. You allowed them to trivialize and reduce issues of the very survival of judiciary and democracy into this country, into suggestions that this was a mere tantrum for getting some petty favours from the CJI.

  8. You allowed sections of the media to ignore your bold actions and instead to deviate their debates to meaningless and distracting comments on your body language, and past political, personal or regional affiliations.

  9. You refused to fight fire with fire. You heard the malicious gossip about a politician visiting one of you, but you did not point out that the Prime Minister was (a) disrespecting the CJI by sending his personal emissary with New Year greetings, a full two weeks into the New Year or (b) making a political point by sending Nripendra Mishra to be insulted by the CJI, or worse (c) that the same hotheads on the television had been turning a blind eye to certain individuals who are seen at the CJI’s residence fairly regularly, and even during the last few days.

  10. You have allowed the media to turn this into 4 vs 21 wrestling match. You have not requested, cajoled, shamed or otherwise invited all the other judges who must obviously sympathise with you, to speak out. When you yourselves have gone silent, how can they join your fight for probity?

  11. You have turned up day after day over the last week in court, pretending that all is well. I wish you’d decided to sit together and refused to play by capricious rules.

I understand that you are not used to speaking outside of the rarified environs of your courtrooms or the carefully orchestrated events for which you write speeches weeks in advance. But still, when you were out there on the lawn, you could have done much more.

I will give you credit for this: you emboldened a cowardly press-corps to speak out. Decades of persecution, and threats of contempt had muzzled the media when it came to the judiciary. By speaking to the media, and appealing directly to the people, you have at the very least opened a slight window through which a ray or two of light may enter the Supreme Court.

But that does not absolve you of the sin of giving us hope, without providing us any further guidance. Nor of subjecting us to the deafening silence since then.

Now see, here is the problem: almost everyone knows deep down in their guts, who the pujari is who sits in the highest temple. We all understand what sort of Prasad was being discussed, and what (un)holy prayers were to be answered in the recently-published transcripts of conversations.

But we have no idea what to do about it. I can’t file an FIR with the police because Veeraswami’s ghost requires you to permit the investigation to start. I can’t petition a court because no sane judge would write any order against the pujari. I can’t petition the Supreme Court because the Master of the Roster will offer me for ritual sacrifice to his buddies.

Will you not fight the Master of the Roster and demand to hear all those cases in which he is directly or indirectly involved? Or any other case for that matter?

You also obviously have many more letters in which you have expressed your concern. Why are you not releasing them to the media? Would it help if I formally wrote to you invoking the Right to Information Act? I am willing to do lend all my (albeit puny) strength to you of course – just so long as we can tear down the dark blinds which prevent the light of day from entering the Supreme Court.

If there is the slightest bit of truth in the rumours of corruption and connivance that we have been hearing for ages, if there is the slightest bit of truth in what Prashant Bhushan and the CJAR have disclosed, then let me say it loud and clear so that there is no ambiguity – THIS CHIEF JUSTICE MUST BE IMPEACHED.

You are the best source of information. You are the most credible arbiters of what is proven misconduct. We will rally around you. The members of parliament will stand with the people of this great nation.

We want to believe that we can trust the judiciary. We want to believe that it is not true that all judges are there only to make money and only to promote their sons and daughters, brothers and friends up the ladder.

But we need you to reach down and find some more of that courage that you displayed on the lawns on the 12th of January.

Make us proud. Make us proud to be Indians once again.

Please remind your brethren in the Court that All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Inspire them, invite them, make them come forward and join hands with you to do what is right for We the people.

Harpreet Giani

Harpreet Giani is a practicing Advocate in India and Dubai DIFC; and a practicing barrister in England & Wales at 33 Chancery Lane, London WC2A1EN. He tweets @HarryGiani.

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