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The Impeachment Politics and the Question of Judiciary

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The impeachment motion moved by the Opposition parties against the CJI has died a natural death after rejection by the Vice-President, Chairman of Rajya Sabha. The opposition knows it will have no hearing in the Supreme Court if it appeals against the decision and it does not have much legal ground to appeal either, since the Vice-President has the constitutional authority to decide whether to admit the motion or not. It is only convention which dictates that the Vice-President should be a mere figure-head and should admit all motions by constituting an inquiry committee, which can then decide on the case. But this is not Britain and conventions cannot form the basis of legal scrutiny in a country like ours which has a written Constitution.

Nevertheless, the sixty-five Opposition MPs, spearheaded by the Congress, had been hoping that, even if the motion would clearly get defeated in both houses of the Parliament, at least an inquiry committee would be formed to investigate the charges. Pending an inquiry, the CJI would, on moral grounds, not take up any cases. By the time, the long and cumbersome legal procedure was over, it would be time for the CJI to retire on October 2nd, 2018.

This means that political cases like the Babri Masjid case or the Justice Loya death case or the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, would not be decided. Were the Babri Masjid case to go in favour of building the temple, the prospects of the 2019 elections would brighten for the BJP, as it would result in a wave of Hindu consolidation across UP. The Judge Loya case has already been closed and his death declared natural by the Supreme Court – effectively blunting the weapon through which the opposition could target the BJP President.

Predictably, the Opposition crafted its five charges against the CJI on very weak grounds – the malicious intent was visible even if one glanced through the charges – derived mostly from the January 12th judges’ conference, where all four senior Supreme Court judges had alleged the mismanagement of the roster by the CJI in selectively assigning the cases. The conference and the politics over Judge Loya’s death – viciously manipulated by Caravan magazine to make wild allegations by pressurizing certain people – had ‘coincided’ neatly together.

Despite the press conference, when the new roster came out the following month, the CJI assigned only land and civil cases to the four judges. That the CJI refused to bow to such public intimidation shocked the political opposition. For the most part, the CJI has remained unaffected by the whole drama, since the charges (including the medical college case and land deals) are frivolous or do not constitute grounds for impeachment.

Not taking along one’s fellow judges or being imperious about the roster are not grounds for impeachment. By crafting the impeachment motion – with which many members of even the Congress disagreed – the party has shot itself in the foot. By implicating that CJI arbitrarily assigns benches, the party ended up accusing not just the CJI, but the entire judicial community, by implying that they all do his bidding! Henceforth, impeachment motions and other judicial procedures will be viewed for what they really are – a political tool that can be manipulated either by politicians or judges. And the Congress will be remembered for its outright politics of dishonesty.

All this political drama has revealed the extent of contamination in our judiciary and in our political and media culture. Indeed, when the impeachment motion was passed or when the judges’ press conference took place, it was not a ‘black day’ for the judiciary. The judiciary has already had a political and corruptible functioning, which was hidden beneath its mask of sophistication and unquestionable status. Even if the frivolous charges laid against CJI Misra were true they are nothing compared to the shenanigans of Supreme Court judges we have had even during ‘golden’ periods of the judiciary.

During the tenure of Mrs. Gandhi as Prime-Minister, even renowned and legendary judges – like PN Bhagwati and YV Chandrachud – often penned judgements under political pressure, such as the famous ADM Jabalpur case. The ministers at that time had famously made statements saying that they want judges who can toe the line of the government and help it to implement its policies. In 1990s, Kapil Sibal – the man at the forefront of the impeachment motion – had defended a judge against proven charges of corruption by arguing that if a judge buys a few pieces of expensive carpet, it cannot be a ground for impeachment. This was when there were clear grounds of corruption!

In 2010, Mr. Sibal had led a campaign against impeachment of judges – understandable, since those were the days of Congress and they had all the institutions in their left-liberal pocket. So, it’s a bit rich that the same party is now crafting extremely weak and trivial grounds for impeaching the CJI. But times have changed and just like everything else, even this exercise has left the Congress and Sitaram Yechury fumbling for way out of their abject failure and ahead.

The opposition has done the country a favour. The national character was already at an all-time low, especially in judiciary and politics. But that has fully been exposed now – all veneer of sophistication, intellectualism and eloquence behind which the left-liberal institutions had hidden themselves to commit crimes against the nation, has fallen away. Never again will the citizens desist from questioning the judiciary or be intimidated by its now-destroyed persona of secrecy and mystery. This has happened even as CJI Misra has been protected against nuisance charges and can continue to deliver judgements that do not bow to the pressure of the left-liberal culture – both the movements are for the good.

This movement in judiciary is not a black day. It was, in fact, much-needed. While the tenure of the Modi government since 2014 has seen serious swings and shake-ups in most areas, the judiciary continued to remain untouched. This changed after Dipak Misra’s appointment. Judges ensconced in their cozy ideologies have been sidelined, while important case that threaten established political privileges have been taken up, causing a political storm. Due to decades of Left-dominated political interference in all areas of life like judiciary, education, etc., justice had long become a sacrifice at the altar of a militant liberal, utilitarian ideology. Unspeakable injustices were committed in the name of the ideology of democracy. And yet, the Court continued to function with imperiousness and kept expanding its powers and ambit. This cozy community, which had become an impediment to addressing the nation’s burning issues, had to be shattered for good.

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