That seems to be the ground on which 64 MPs from seven political parties tried to impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The act of the INC of sending a notice to the chairman of the Rajya Sabha (and Vice-President) M Venkaiah Naidu for the impeachment motion — as much as their subsequent idea of moving the court when the notice was rejected — is deplorable. A host of experts in law have rightly condemned the move, mincing no words. From Harish Salve to Fali S Nariman, from Ram Jethmalani to former attorney general Soli S Sorabjee, from former Supreme Court judge B Sudershan Reddy to former Lok Sabha secretary Subhash C Kashyap, everybody who counts in the profession has slammed the INC. The CJI can neither be accused of professional misconduct nor is he physically incapacitated — the only two grounds on which a judge can be impeached. No less than lawyer-politician Kapil Sibal, known for his logic-defying spins, had asserted in 2010, when he was a minister in the UPA government, that the mere desire of 50 plus MPs to impeach a judge was not enough to set the motion in. He brazened it out today on the same channel he had spoken to eight years ago, saying he was then talking against the issuance of a party whip to impeach a judge. Baloney! He wasn’t. Another UPA-era minister Salman Khurshid emulated his colleague’s somersault. After saying last Friday he had not been consulted by his party for the motion, today he wanted Naidu’s decision to be challenged legally. Pro-INC lawyer KTS Tusi took a U-turn as effortlessly. India’s oldest party had, in fact, thrice opposed impeachment motions during its long rule.
The grounds on which the INC, inspired by disruption-loving communists, demands the impeachment this year are allegations: (1) that the CJI refused to allow the prosecution of Allahabad High Court judge Narayan Shukla who was, the party assumes, bribed by Lucknow-based Prasad Education Trust; (2) that the CJI dealt administratively and judicially with a writ petition in which he too was likely to fall within the scope of investigation; (3) that the letter by which Chelameswar was informed of the case allotment was “antedated”; (4) that the CJI acquired some land when he was an advocate by giving a false affidavit, and (5) that he abused his power by choosing to send sensitive matters to particular benches. When their notice was rejected, the INC politicians called a press conference to make other allegations galore. The bipartisan legal luminaries named above have rubbished all the allegations as frivolous, amounting to scandalising of the judiciary. Justice Misra was not the CJI when the Prasad Education Trust case was heard and concluded. Justice Lokur differed with Justice Misra and so the case went to a five-judge bench. The case of Aadhaar was heard by a bench of five judges, too, and it’s always the CJI of the day who heads such a bench. Adding to these rebuttals, Salve said those who made allegations of the type that the CJI is a “bench-fixer” must be sent to jail. He also believes that the Supreme Court should have tried those who brought the PIL against the decision not to probe Judge BH Loya’s death under the contempt-of-court provision. In an apparent reference to Prashant Bhushan, Dushyant Dave and Indira Jaisingh, Salve called them NGO honcho Teesta Setalvad’s “daftaris” (courtiers), given their abusive insinuations and “talking nonsense” against the highest court of the country.
It is no more about an individual, as Nariman rightly pointed out. The most revered institution of the country is being denigrated. Even an ordinary citizen can, of course, say he differs with a certain judgment. But we have a situation where senior counsel Sibal tells the CJI in the courtroom of the latter during a hearing session that he would walk out of the case, which he cannot do according to the rules. No less than the former CJI, Justice (Retd) TS Thakur, whom non-serious social media denizens questioned often for his alleged pro-Congress tilt, said the INC’s impeachment campaign was “very unfortunate”. It was so embarrassing, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh refused to add his signature to the notice to Naidu. The Bar Council of India is contemplating stern action against the lawyers who suffice as INC’s politicians. Finally, this hullabaloo is not going to pay Rahul Gandhi’s party political dividends. And this is not just our view. A former judge of the highest court, Justice (Retd) Reddy, has said it. Indeed, the TMC is wary of this confrontation with the judiciary. The DMK is not interested either. The BJD has taken exception to the INC’s decision because Justice Misra hails from Odisha. And people are speculating on social media that the INC is anti-Brahmin!