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.”


Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

Updated 24 June 2018
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Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

  • The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but a government spokesman said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.
  • After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue.

KABUL: The Afghan government is confident of holding peace talks with Taliban militants despite a recent surge of attacks by insurgents, a palace spokesman said.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi said the announcement last week of a brief truce by the Taliban over Eid, the increasing movement of extremists and some field commanders to government-held areas, and a call for peace by the Imam of Makkah and the Saudi monarch were the basis of the government’s optimism.

The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but Murtazawi said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.

“A new chapter has been opened and the broad support for a cease-fire and an end to the war are the causes for our optimism,” he told Arab News.

“The fact that Taliban announced a truce and their commanders came into towns and celebrated Eid with government officials are positive signs that the extremists will be ready for talks with the government.”

However, no contact has been established with leaders of the group since the militants called off their truce, Murtazawi said.

After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue. Scores of Afghan troops have been killed in a spate of attacks, including assaults on military bases where the insurgents joined government forces to celebrate Eid.

Some tribal chiefs and local officials are calling for “safe zones” where extremists can hold initial talks with the government, according to a local official who refused to be named.