By Sushil Kutty
The word “appropriate” is in the eye of speculation after an order passed by a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra on the PIL seeking an independent probe into the death of special CBI judge B H Loya said documents be “put up before an appropriate bench”.
The question then is: did the bench mean that it was recusing itself from the case as the “four senior judges who went public on Friday last” had found it would be “appropriate” to do so, or did it mean that the CJI would allocate the case to a different, “appropriate” bench?
“Let the documents be placed on record, within seven days and if it is considered appropriate, copies be furnished to the petitioners. Put up before the appropriate bench,” the bench of Justices Mishra and Mohan M Shantanagoudar said.
The word “appropriate” used as an adjective translates to “suitable or proper in the circumstances” with close synonyms being “suitable, proper and fitting”. So, did the bench mean that this wasn’t the suitable or appropriate time to quibble on which bench should hear the Loya petition?
Or did the bench use it as a verb, which would translate appropriate to “take something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission”, which could have been the accusation of the “four senior most judges” when they went public with their allegations against the CJI.
Used as a verb, the closest synonyms of “appropriate” are “seize, commandeer, expropriate, annex, arrogate, takeover, lay claim and hijack”, all words accusatory. And without doubt the “four” were accusatory when they, without being explicit, singled out and made the Loya case the tipping point for them going public on Friday.
“Appropriate” for the CJI, according to the “four”, was “inappropriate” to them, and by extension to the people of India. Of course, nobody, much less the people of India, had given the “four” the right to speak for the people of India, that they were he “appropriate” to represent India. That premise was in itself not “appropriate”. But then these were the four of the five wisest men in India speaking and they were the ones who were expected to come up with the most “appropriate” steps to correct a wrong.
And even as everybody was speculating on “appropriate”, the Chief Justice of India took the “appropriate” step to constitute a 5-judge constitution bench to hear a range of important matters post the unprecedented press conference. In the process, he thought it fitting and “appropriate” not to commandeer the wisdom of the “four” who went public against him.
The message was clear: It is not “appropriate” to cast slurs on the chief’s wisdom, the chief always wins. Making random calls for the “impeachment” of the CJI does not mean it was “appropriate”, not “under the circumstances”.
The five-judge constitution bench headed by the CJI comprises of Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan. On Wednesday the bench began hearing the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act.
Other cases the bench will be hearing include the 2013 judgement re-criminalising gay sex between consenting adults and the entry of women between 10 and 50 years of age in Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, besides whether a Parsi woman would lose her religious identity if she married a man of a different religion.
All these cases were earlier referred to larger benches of the apex court. Also, on Tuesday, CJI Mishra thought it appropriate” to reach out to the “four” and hold talks with them over tea.
The word “appropriate” in Tuesday’s order on the PIL on Loya’s death was being interpreted as the bench’s disinclination to hear the politically sensitive case. The order came a day after an emotional Justice Arun Mishra took on the “four” for “ruining his reputation by painting his bench as the bench of preference”.
That was not “appropriate”, he thought so. But for all the strain, Justice Arun Mishra, looked in control on Tuesday when his bench told lawyer for Maharashtra government Harish Salve to “give Loya papers to the petitioners” stating that “there should be nothing confidential about this case.”
It became clear that Justice Arun Mishra wanted everything out in the open; it was as if he too wanted to take the matter to the people’s court as the “four” had thought it “appropriate” to do. “It is a matter where they (petitioners) should know everything if there is no confidentiality,” the bench said.
The Friday insurrection of the four senior-most judges of the SC – Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph – was said to be the “tipping point” which compelled the “four” to hold their unprecedented press conference and go all out against CJI Dipak Mishra and “junior judge” Arun Mishra.
The Congress Party then saw it “appropriate” opportunity to pin down the BJP with the Loya case. Left parties and left-liberal civil society joined in the chorus to hold “an independent inquiry” into the “mysterious death” of judge Loya. Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi called for a “probe”. The BJP, pinned to the mat, found it “appropriate” to sit silent, unable to do much except flow with the flow.
Justice Loya’s family was forced to come out and tell the media and others to layoff; that the family had no reasons to doubt that Justice Loya’s death was anything other than “natural”, brought about by a heart attack. So far, other than the civil society lobby, only an article in the Caravan has spoken of foul play in the death of judge Loya.
Justice Arun Mishra was under pressure from his peers and “seniors” to prove competency. He was under a cloud as far as the four senior SC judges were concerned. Whatever the decision, which will take days to come, for or against an inquiry into the death made mysterious by conflicting statements and political overtones, Justice Mishra had a tough decision to make. To Loya or not to Loya was the dilemma that Justice Arun Mishra faced.
Judge Loya’s death has roiled many individuals. BJP president Amit Shah was one of the accused and if the SC orders a probe it could spell serious trouble to the BJP in an election year. The caravan of politicians holding the BJP responsible for Judge Loya’s death will make “Sarai” calls at every street corner to hit out at the BJP and Amit Shah and dull the acclaimed BJP election winning machine. (IPA Service)
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