Judges revolt against chief justice of India

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


Lion Air crash victims’ families to rally as hunt for wreckage steps up

Updated 18 min 45 sec ago
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Lion Air crash victims’ families to rally as hunt for wreckage steps up

  • Lion Air is paying for a specialized ship to help lift the main wreckage of flight JT 610 and give investigators a better chance of finding the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) in a search that has lacked sophisticated equipment for the last month
  • The enhanced search will cost $2.8 million for the first 10 days

JAKARTA: Families of some of the 189 people killed in a Lion Air plane crash plan a protest rally in Indonesia on Thursday, while stalled efforts to bring the main wreckage to the surface and find the second black box are set to resume next week.
The Boeing Co. 737 MAX jet crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29 shortly after take-off from Jakarta, but the families expressed concern that the remains of 64 passengers have yet to be identified, with just 30 percent of the plane’s body found.
“The relatives hope that all members of our families who died in the accident can be found and their bodies buried in a proper way,” a group that says it represents about 50 families said in a statement.
“We hope the search for the victims will use vessels with sophisticated technology,” it added, ahead of the rally planned for outside the presidential palace in Jakarta.
Lion Air is paying for a specialized ship to help lift the main wreckage of flight JT 610 and give investigators a better chance of finding the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) in a search that has lacked sophisticated equipment for the last month, Reuters reported.
Indonesia’s national transport panel said the vessel was due to arrive on Monday.
The enhanced search will cost $2.8 million for the first 10 days, a source close to the airline said on Thursday, on condition of anonymity, adding that Lion Air is paying because the government does not have the budget.
A spokesman for Lion Air was unable to respond immediately to a request for comment.
“Funds for the CVR search will be borne by Lion Air which has signed a contract for a ship from a Singaporean company,” a finance ministry spokesman told Reuters.
Lion Air’s decision to foot the bill is a rare test of global norms regarding search independence, as such costs are typically paid by governments.
In this case, investigators said they had faced bureaucratic wrangling and funding problems before Lion Air stepped in.
Safety experts say it is unusual for one of the parties to help fund an investigation, required by UN rules to be independent, so as to ensure trust in any safety recommendations made.
There are also broader concerns about resources available for such investigations worldwide, coupled with the risk of agencies being ensnared in legal disputes.
The clock is ticking in the hunt for acoustic pings coming from the L3 Technologies Inc. cockpit voice recorder fitted to the jet. It has a 90-day beacon, the manufacturer’s online brochure shows.
The flight data recorder was retrieved three days after the crash, providing insight into aircraft systems and crew inputs, although the cause has yet to be determined.