The rejection of the impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra by the Vice-President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, M Venkaiah Naidu, on Monday, was expected. For, the charges lack substance. These were based on mere innuendoes and doubts, not on facts. The movers’ pique and anger against the CJI for not ensuring a favourable order in the Judge Loya death case was behind the petty and revengeful move. None of the charges was serious enough to meet the strict criterion prescribed in Article 124 of the Constitution.
Proven incapacity or misbehavior is required for the impeachment of a judge of the High Court or the Supreme Court. The notice of an impeachment motion given by the seven Opposition parties contains five specific charges, none remotely suggesting either incapacity or misbehavior. The move was totally political, as leading legal luminaries, including Fali Nariman, Soli Sorabjee and Upendra Baxi, have reiterated publicly. All three have lamented the fact that the provision of the impeachment was being abused for wholly partisan ends. This was deplorable. Naidu in his detailed order rejecting the motion has spelt out the reasons why he did so. One of the more ridiculous objections raised by the Congress lawyers was that he had done so in a hurry.
Maybe because not being a practicing lawyer, Naidu has no financial stake in prolonging the matter from date to date! Levity aside, it was very sensible of him to seek to puncture this façade of lies and half-truths, which otherwise, would have hung like the sword of Damocles’ over the CJI’s head, impairing his capacity to perform his designated administrative and judicial functions. Maybe this is precisely what the movers wanted since the well-being of the institution of judiciary comes second to them, way after the need to bolster their political interests. Having woefully failed in their bid to drag the BJP President Amit Shah in the death by natural causes of Judge Loya, who, incidentally, was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case in which Shah is an accused, the eager-beaver lawyer-members of the Congress Party were now bent on abusing the impeachment provision to save face.
Notwithstanding the name-calling among the political parties on the issue of impeachment, it will be profitable for the fence-sitters to pay heed to what the apolitical veteran jurists have had to say in the matter. Not one in the entire galaxy of jurists and legal pundits has approved the impeachment move. Hearsay, trumped up charges, personal grievances of the four senior-most judges, as against the implied opposition of the 21 other judges, who too constitute the apex court, cannot be allowed to undermine the image of the higher judiciary. It is rather rich for the Congress Party to justify the impeachment move on the ground that it was meant to ‘rescue the judiciary’. For a party, which had systematically fiddled with the higher judiciary, packing it with courtiers and carpet-baggers, to make such a claim was nothing short of a joke. Instances galore of its abuse of the executive power to pack the court with its own doormats, an important reason why the apex court assumed primacy in the matter of appointments through the collegium system.
Meanwhile, refusing to cut its losses and to leave the matter of impeachment well alone, Kapil Sibal and Co — he of the zero loss in the 2-G scam fame — has now threatened to appeal against the rejection of the motion by Naidu in the Supreme Court. Of course, the CJI will not himself sit on such a bench, but whatever the constitution of the bench it is unlikely that the Congress plea will be entertained or should be entertained. The judges can appreciate that nothing would be gained by renewing the legislature versus judiciary turf fight; both sides stand to lose. Significantly, the hollowness of the charges would call for dismissal of the Congress plea on merit at the admission stage itself. The Supreme Court cannot become, cannot be allowed to become, a forum for the politicians to fight their partisan battles. Even now it may not be too late for the movers to retreat from this destructive course which can only pull down the judiciary a notch or two without advancing their own political cause. Play politics with politicians not with high judicial functionaries entrusted with the task of upholding the founding document of the Republic.