Judges revolt against chief justice of India

The Indian Supreme Court building. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2018
0

Judges revolt against chief justice of India

NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented move, four sitting senior Supreme Court judges have revolted against the chief justice of India (CJI), accusing him of compromising the spirit of democracy in the country, and demanding corrective measures to preserve judicial autonomy.
A press conference in New Delhi on Friday by justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph highlighted the growing rift between senior judges and CJI Dipak Misra.
“This is an extraordinary event in the history of any nation, more particularly this nation, and an extraordinary event in the institution of the judiciary,” said Chelameswar, the second-most-senior judge.
“We’re all convinced that unless this institution is preserved… democracy won’t survive in this country,” he added.
“The hallmark of a good democracy is an impartial and independent judiciary, and we don’t want to be blamed for selling our souls.”
Ever since taking charge in August 2017, the chief justice has moved cases on numerous occasions from one bench to another on a whim.
Protesting judges say Misra is using his power to allot cases arbitrarily, not in the spirit of constitutionality and democracy.
The matter came to a head with the death in 2014 of Justice Brijgopal Harkishan Loya. Three years later, a New Delhi-based magazine raised doubts about the manner in which he died.
The Mumbai High Court was supposed to hear a petition for a probe into his death on Wednesday, but the CJI gave the case to two junior judges in the Supreme Court. Judges wanted the case to be given to senior peers, considering the gravity of the case.
“We all want the judiciary to survive, and this is the only top institution of the country that can safeguard you and me,” said senior Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising.
Prominent lawyer Prashant Bushan said: “This is a serious matter. The judges who came out protesting are highly reputed and very conservative. They are known for their wisdom.”
Political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay told Arab News: “The unprecedented development today is a direct indictment of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi’s regime.”
Mukhopadhyay added: “It proves beyond doubt what civil society members have been alleging for the past few years, that Modi has been eroding the autonomy and credibility of constitutional bodies in a systematic manner ever since he came to power.”
He said the only way out of this crisis is for Misra to resign, adding: “My feeling is that the government will allege that protesting judges are in cahoots with forces that are trying to destabilize the country or the government, as they’ve done with civil society members who have criticized the government’s divisive and sectarian agenda.”
The opposition Congress Party’s President Rahul Gandhi said the points raised by the judges are “extremely important” and “must be looked into carefully.”
India’s Attorney General K. Venugopal, the government’s chief legal adviser, said if the protesting judges had “avoided going to the press,” the matter would have been resolved “in a day or two.”


Families bury victims as Tanzania ferry disaster toll passes 200

Updated 23 September 2018
0

Families bury victims as Tanzania ferry disaster toll passes 200

  • Divers were also set to continue their grim search in the waters around the boat
  • With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometers, Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya

UKARA, Tanzania: Grieving families were on Sunday preparing to bury victims of Tanzania’s devastating ferry disaster, with more than 200 confirmed dead after the crowded boat capsized in Lake Victoria.
Hopes were fading of finding any more survivors three days after the ferry sank on Thursday, even after rescuers pulled out an engineer who had managed to find refuge in an air pocket in the upturned vessel.
“We are going to start burying bodies not yet identified by relatives,” said John Mongella, governor of Mwanza region, where the MV Nyerere ferry had been coming in to dock on the island of Ukara.
“The (burial) ceremony will be overseen by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, in the presence of clergy members of different denominations,” Mongella said Saturday on TBC 1 public television.
Divers were also set to continue their grim search in the waters around the boat, where late Saturday they were watched by anxious crowds gathered just meters (yards) away on Ukara’s shore.
Mongella said 218 people had been confirmed dead, while 41 escaped the tragedy with their lives — a total figure far above the official capacity of the boat, which was in theory only able to carry 101 passengers.
One survivor was an engineer who shut himself into a “special room” with enough air for him to stay alive until he was found, said local lawmaker Joseph Mkundi.
Transport Minister Isack Kamwelwe said on Saturday that 172 of the victim’s bodies had been identified by relatives.
State television cited witnesses reporting that more than 200 people had boarded the ferry at Bugolora, a town on the larger Ukerewe Island. It was market day, which usually sees the vessel packed with people and goods.
Witnesses told AFP the ferry sank when passengers rushed to one side to disembark as it approached the dock. Others blamed the captain, saying he had made a brusque maneuver.
Dozens of wooden coffins lined the shore on Saturday, waiting to be seen by families as police and volunteers sought to keep hundreds of curious locals at bay.
Aisha William came to collect the body of her husband. “He left on Tuesday around noon, but he never came home. I do not know how I am going to raise my two children,” she said.
Ahmed Caleb, a 27-year-old trader, railed at a tragedy “which could have been prevented. I’ve lost my boss, friends, people I went to school with,” he sighed.
The aging vessel, whose hull and propellers were all that remained visible above water, was also carrying cargo, including sacks of maize, bananas and cement, when it capsized.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Friday ordered the arrest of the ferry’s management and declared four days of national mourning.
In a speech broadcast on TBC 1, Magufuli said “it appears clear that the ferry was overloaded,” adding that the government would cover the funeral expenses of the victims.
With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometers, oval-shaped Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
It is not uncommon for ferries to capsize in the lake, and the number of fatalities is often high due to a shortage of life jackets and the fact that many people in the region cannot swim.