- In January, four top court judges held unprecedented press meet
- Justice AP Shah called for judicial reforms
- Justice Shah asked why Right to Information Act not applied to judiciary
Justice Shah was speaking in the context of Chief Justice of India Justice Dipak Misra making public the assignment of cases in the Supreme Court for the first time after he was publicly criticized by four judges who are senior most after Justice Misra.
At a first-of-its-kind press conference held on January 12, Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph had voiced their criticism of how major cases were assigned by the Chief Justice.
"In the roster made public, we see that all four judges who made this public declaration are kept out of all important matters, be it the Ayodhya case, the Aadhaar matter or the land acquisition row. While it is true that seniority is not the sole criterion, but seniority does matter," said Justice Shah, delivering the BG Verghese Memorial Lecture on the topic "Chief Justice: First Among Equals".
According to the roster that was made public, the Chief Justice will hear all Public Interest Litigations and cases related to elections, criminal cases, social justice and appointment of constitutional functionaries.
"The fact that all four of the top five judges of the Supreme Court, other than the Chief Justice, have been curiously kept out of all constitutional matters, is surely strange and something to be questioned," said Justice Shah, the former chairman of the 20th Law Commission of India.
Justice Shah called for judicial reforms, asking why the Right to Information Act has not applied to the judiciary.
"For many decades, the judiciary has hidden behind a mask of constitutionalism, defending its silence as an intrinsic feature of its institutional integrity and role as a constitutional authority. But such a display of silence and integrity comes up short when it is at the cost of the rule of law, and principles of transparency and accountability," said Justice Shah.