NEW DELHI: Chief Justice Dipak Misra has been at the receiving end of Congress’s veiled as well as not-so-veiled attacks since January 12 when four seniormost judges of the Supreme Court, in an extraordinary step, chose to criticise the head of the judiciary.
Congress latched on to the attack on the CJI by his colleagues and cited this to launch a drive to seek his removal. However, with the CJI swiftly responding to Congress’s plea for the top court’s intervention to stall the formation of a BJP government in Karnataka — with many wondering whether it was his intervention that turned out to be the game changer — the opposition party’s hostility could have been neutralised to some extent.
Discharging his role as master of roster, the CJI on Thursday urgently constituted a three-judge bench for a post-midnight hearing on the Congress-JD(S) combine’s petition which ultimately changed its political fortune. The SC registry cleared the petition at 11.40 pm on Wednesday and it reached CJI Misra’s residence at 12.10 am on Thursday.
The registry needed the CJI’s order to choose judges and find their convenience to list the petition which, according to Congress lawyers, could not brook any delay in view of the governor calling BJP to form government in the state.
The CJI went through the papers quickly and at 12.20 am asked registrar general Ravindra Maithani to get in touch with three judges — Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde and Ashok Bhushan — for an urgent hearing on the petition.
To the credit of the three judges, none of them hesitated for a postmidnight hearing in the SC. Maithani got back to the CJI with the consent of the judges that they would hear the petition at 1.45 pm. Arrangements were made to open Court No.6, ferry staff and court masters to assist the judges in the chamber and the courtroom.
Despite arrangements being made on a war footing, the hearing could start only at 2.10 am.Registry sources said the CJI was in constant touch with the registrar general. The CJI kept awake till the hearing got underway, sources said.. He was prepared to nominate a substitute for any of the judges if situation so warranted. Had the CJI deferred hearing on the petition to Thursday, BJP would have got time to “work on” rival MLAs.
Registry sources said even when the Congress-JD(S) petition challenging appointment of the pro tem speaker was mentioned before the CJI around 8.30 pm on Friday, he immediately ordered it placed before the same bench, which at 9.45 pm decided to hear it on Saturday.