The news of virtual revolt by four seniormost judges against Chief Justice Dipak Misra, a first in the chequered 67-year-long history of the Supreme Court, caught lawyers, litigants, scribes and politicos by surprise on Friday, sending shock waves in the court corridors.
As the court started its work at 10.30am like any other busy day, there was no indication of what was to come.
Suddenly, around 11.30am, Justice J Chelameswar and Justice Kurian Joseph rose for the day in their respective court rooms, numbered 2 and 5.
Justice Ranjan Gogoi, in the meantime, rushed through and disposed of most of the day’s listed business, while Justice Madan B Lokur heard matters in his chamber.
All four of them suddenly left the Supreme Court within minutes thereafter and gathered at the 4, Tughlaq Road Bungalow in Lutyen’s Delhi, the official residence of Justice Chelameswar to hold the press conference.
The news of their sudden exit spread like a wildfire in the corridors of the apex court, sending shock waves among journalists, lawyers and litigants and leading the scribes to scramble to the venue of the presser, about four kilometres away from the top court.
It was an unprecedented lifetime event, being the first such in the history of independent India.
At the venue, media stalwarts and lawyers jostled for space alongside journalists, as the official residence of Justice Chelameswar buzzed with activity and its gates, which are often closed, were open for all.
Besides veteran journalist like Shekhar Gupta, senior advocate Indira Jaising, who had served as Additional Solicitor General during UPA regime, were among those who reached well before the commencement of the presser.
Moments before the presser began, lensmen started shouting at each other to get better footage of the judges coming to the lawns to address the media.
As the chairs meant for scribes got occupied, many sat on the ground of the lush green lawn while seniors like Shekhar Gupta and Indira Jaising were also seen standing.
Scribes were heard murmuring how the senior journalist and the lawyer were present at the press conference.
The judges, after addressing media for 7-8 minutes, refused to answer some pointed questions like ‘Do they want the CJI to be impeached’. To this, they said they were not doing politics and asked the journalists not to put words in their mouth.
When Jaising tried to ask some questions to the judges, some journalists objected saying that the conference was meant for the press only. However, Jaising said she was there as a citizen of the country.
Throughout the press conference, Gupta was seen standing behind the four judges and later, he eagerly obliged TV channels with his sound bytes.
CPI leader D Raja later visited the residence of Justice Chelameswar and some sources said that a couple of other apex court judges too went to 4, Tughlaq Road.
Soon thereafter, the word spread that Attorney General KK Venugopal was holding a meeting with the CJI and some scribes tried to know the outcome from the top law officer.
A tweet was also circulated that the CJI and the AG would hold a press conference, which did not happen.
The journalists who had rushed back to the apex court to cover this meeting had a futile, long wait till the end of the court time of 4pm.
When contacted, legal luminaries such as former chief justice KG Balakrishnan, KTS Tulsi, former judge RS Sodhi and others described the event as surprising and unprecedented.