Describing the concerns expressed by four senior-most Supreme Court judges as "unprecedented and sensitive", key opposition parties on Friday demanded a probe into the issues flagged by them, including that of the mysterious death of judge BH Loya.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the points highlighted by the judges were "extremely important" and called for a probe into Loya's case by the "highest level of the Supreme Court".
The Congress said the PIL concerning the death of Loya must be entrusted to the senior-most judges of the apex court who should ensure that under their supervision there is a "thorough and impartial" investigation by an independent specail investigation team.
Special Central Bureau of Investigation judge B H Loya, who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, had allegedly died under mysterious circumstances in 2014. The apex court had on Thursday agreed to hear two separate pleas seeking independent probe into the death.
Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah was an accused in the case but was discharged.
One of the four senior-most judges, who held an unprecedented press conference, had said that the matter involving Loya's death was one of the issues underpinning their differences with Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
"I think the points that have been raised by the four judges are extremely important. They have mentioned there is a threat to democracy. It needs to be looked into carefully.
"They also made a point about judge Loya's case. I think that is also something that needs to be investigated properly. It needs to be looked at from the highest level of the Supreme Court," Gandhi told reporters in New Delhi.
"We are very concerned to hear 4 judges of the Supreme Court expressed concerns about the functioning of the Supreme Court. #DemocracyInDanger," the Congress' official Twitter handle had said earlier.
In his brief statement, Gandhi said that all citizens who love the idea of justice and believe in the Supreme Court were looking at the developments, and therefore it was important that those were addressed.
A battery of senior Congress politician-lawyers including Kapil Sibal, P Chidambaram, Manish Tewari, Vivek Tankha and Salman Khurshid were present at the press conference.
Senior party leaders Ahmed Patel, AICC general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra Mohan Prakash and its chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala were also present.
In its statement on the issue, read out by Surjewala, the Congress said it was perturbed by the developments and that observations made by the judges and the issues raised by them at their press conference were "extremely disturbing" and have a "far-reaching" consequences for the values that are held sacred-- safeguarding democracy and preserving the independence of the judiciary.
"The Congress earnestly appeals that the Full Court of the Supreme Court should take up the issues raised by the four the judges and find solutions that are consistent with the traditions and conventions of the judiciary pointed out by the judges and that will preserve the independence of the judiciary," it said.
In the matter of assignment of cases, the established conventions and traditions of the courts must be followed and the selective assignment of cases must be stopped forthwith, the statement said.
Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury said a thorough investigation was required to understand how the independence and integrity of the judiciary was getting "affected", after the judges said many "less than desirable" things had taken place in the apex court.
He said it was necessary for the three wings of democracy -- the executive, the legislature and the judiciary -- to ensure that whatever issues had been raised were corrected.
Former Rajya Sabha member Sharad Yadav called it a "dark day" for democracy, saying for the first time sitting SC judges had to speak before the media to highlight complaints.
"It is a dark day for democracy that even the judges are working under pressure and without independence," he said.
Former Union law minister and Congress leader Ashwani Kumar said it was a "sad day" in the history of India that judges were "compelled" to bring in public domain the happenings in the top court.
He also called for a collective resolve to address the issues flagged by the judges "instead of finding fault with what they have said".
"The expressed and implicit anguish in the exceptional and extraordinary step take by the judges has a message in itself. A time has come for the nation to debate the larger issues that squarely arise from the communication released by the judges to the press.
"...I hope that the honourable CJI and all those concerned will take urgent remedial measures," the Congress leader said.
Four senior judges of the Supreme Court on Friday virtually revolted against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, listing a string of problems that they said were afflicting the country's highest court, and warned those could destroy Indian democracy.
Meanwhile, the CPI clarified that its member D Raja visited Justice J Chelameswar, one of the four judges, in his personal capacity and not as a representative of the party.
Raja, on his part, said he met the udge because he knew him since his student days.
"Raja went in his personal capacity and not as a representative of the party", CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy said.
Reddy also said it was a "misunderstanding" that his party wanted to meddle in the controversy.
Image: Supreme Court judge Jasti Chelameswar along jusctice Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph during a press conference in New Delhi on Friday. Photograph: Ravi Choudhary/PTI Photo