April 20, 2018 will always be remembered as a black day in the history of independent India. Seven opposition parties led by the Congress submitted a proposal to the Vice-President of India, seeking to impeach the current Chief Justice of India (CJI).Earlier in the second week of January this year, in an unprecedented move, four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court held a press conference. They were scathing in their attack on the functioning of the Supreme Court and stated that ‘the administration of the Supreme Court is not in order and many things which are less than desirable have happened in the last few months’. They, quite unsuccessfully, tried to disguise their public dissention as an extraordinary event ‘to preserve democracy in the country’.
When asked if they wanted the CJI to be impeached, Justice Chelameswar’s response was shockingly provocative and instigative. “Let the nation decide,” he said without any hesitation. It was an open suggestion to the dissidents of all hues. Allocation of cases to different benches is the prerogative of CJI. He carries the authority of being Master of the Roster. The four unhappy judges felt that they were being assigned less important cases. Honestly, one is surprised at their assertion. One thought that every case that comes before the Supreme Court is of utmost importance ‘with far-reaching consequences for the nation’, as every judgment acts as a precedent and guidance for the subordinate judiciary across the country to follow. Where is the question of more or less important cases? The four judges would have been justified in feeling aggrieved if no cases were being assigned to them, forcing them to sit idle. But that is not the case. They want cases of their interest. It will be interesting to know the number of cases pending before them and the efforts put in by them to dispose them. If they are already well-loaded, they should concentrate on dispensing justice expeditiously rather than go public to demand ‘more important cases’ – finish work in hand and demonstrate your industriousness, before seeking cases of choice. By going public, the judges trashed the basic norm of organisational conduct – one should never fault or criticise one’s organisation publically while being a part of it. To bring disrepute to one’s organisation by ‘washing dirty linen in public’ is an act of gross disloyalty and unpardonable sacrilege. Issues, if any, must be raised and resolved in-house. If still aggrieved, the right step is to quit the organisation; thereafter one is at liberty to air one’s grievances. Taking the clue from Justice Chelameswar’s advice, six opposition parties joined the Congress in launching a vicious campaign to impeach CJI. The charges levelled against him are not only frivolous but are laughable. It needs to be recalled here that Article 124(4) of Constitution of India stipulates that the impeachment of a supreme court judge can only be carried out on the ground of ‘proved misbehaviour or incapacity’. How can the allocation of cases to different benches be termed as misbehaviour warranting impeachment? The Vice-President has rightly rejected the notice, terming it to be lacking in merit. A look at the chronology of events shows the devious designs of the unscrupulous. Justice BH Loya, who was hearing CBI's case of murder against BJP chief Amit Shah, died of a cardiac arrest in Nagpur in December 2014. With a view to target Shah, a number of appeals were filed in the Supreme Court seeking independent investigation into Loya’s death. Opposition parties wanted the case to be assigned to a ‘considerate bench’, hoping to get a favourable verdict. CJI admitted the case. On 12 January, he assigned it to a bench that did not include any of the four dissenting judges. Both the opposition leaders and the dissenting judges were furious. The judges vented their anger at the press conference the same evening. The question arises as to why were the said judges so keen to hear the said case. What special interest did it hold for them? During the hearing of the case, with a view to put pressure on the bench, the Congress started collecting signatures for the impeachment of CJI. A total of 71 members signed. It was an ominous move of the most vicious kind. It was an open challenge to the top court of the country – rule in our favour or else face impeachment. Having conveyed the threat, the Congress leaders waited for the verdict in the Loya case. They had expected CJI to get browbeaten and fall in line. Had the verdict been according to the Congress’s demand, impeachment move would have been aborted. But it was not to be. The court dismissed the petitions on 19 April and an enraged Congress submitted the notice for impeachment the very next day. Incidentally, as the signatures were taken quite some time back, seven signatories had since retired and the list contained only 64 valid signatures. By acting in an unbecoming manner, the four judges have inflicted immense damage to the esteemed institution. It has left the countrymen stunned. It will take decades for the Supreme Court to regain its lost reputation. Questions have been raised about the impartiality of the four judges. Why were they overly keen to hear Loya case appeals? As the judges are unhappy with the functioning of the Supreme Court, the most honourable thing for them to do is to resign. In any case, they have lost their credibility as regards fair and objective dispensation of justice. In case they do not take such a step voluntarily, senior members of the bar and the eminent jurists should put pressure on them. Justice Ranjan Gogoi has ruled himself out for the appointment of CJI. He accepted the fact that the immediate cause of the press conference was the assignment of petition in the Loya case. Why did he feel so aggrieved for not getting the said case? Although he said that they had come before the public ‘to pay a debt to the nation’, many feel that it was in fact ‘to pay a debt to the Congress’. Justice Gogoi has demonstrated his bias and subjectivity openly. One is not surprised at the conduct of the Congress. It is on a ventilator and wants to retain its relevance at every cost, even if it entails destruction of all the hallowed institutions of the Indian democracy. It wants to subvert the system from within through the planted functionaries. When thwarted in its nefarious designs, it resorts to intimidation tactics through scurrilous innuendoes. All that talk of saving democracy is pure hogwash. The parliamentary standing committee on law and personnel has recommended that the retirement age of SC judges be raised to 67 years from the present 65 to tide over the existing shortage of judges in the highest court. Modi government should immediately effect the change. Even otherwise, Justice Gogoi’s claim must be disregarded. He is unfit for the top post. Interestingly, a number of senior leaders of the Congress have disassociated themselves from the impeachment proposal. Have they rediscovered their spine to disobey the dynasty or is it simply a case of rats abandoning a sinking ship? It is certainly an ominous sign for the party that ruled this country for more than six decades. However, no tears need to be shed on its suicidal downfall due to its anti-national politics.
Read More By The Author:
Note: The views expressed in the article are of the author's and not of Sify.com.