Politics of impeachment

The Congress-led initiative has made the issue appear like a revenge petition to turn it into a political battle against the government

AuthorPublished: 25th Apr 2018  12:00 amUpdated: 24th Apr 2018  6:31 pm

The narrative built around the notice to impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, unprecedented in the annals of the country’s judicial history, borders on politically motivated agenda and sets a dangerous new low in denigrating the judiciary. The grounds cited by the Congress-led removal motion, signed by 64 members of Rajya Sabha, lacked merit and verifiable evidence of misbehaviour. Assumptions, innuendoes, conjecture and unsubstantiated charges cannot become the basis for impeaching Chief Justice of the highest court of the land. The present turmoil in the judiciary should not be allowed to be used as a political tool to settle brownie points. The ill-conceived impeachment motion, moved by the Congress and six other opposition parties, constituted the ‘blackest possible day’ for the judiciary, as eminent jurist Fali Nariman pointed out, and evoked widespread condemnation by several constitutional experts, including Parasaran and Soli Sorabjee. Any move to remove a judge must be based on unimpeachable documentary evidence of corruption or misbehaviour, utmost circumspection and maximum consensus among lawmakers. What the Congress-led initiative has done is to trivialise the issue and made it appear like a revenge petition to turn it into a political battle against the government. A Supreme Court judge can be impeached only in the case of either his ‘incapacity’ or on ‘proven misconduct’ and none of these factors is applicable in the case of Justice Misra who is retiring in six months. Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu has rightly rejected the notice as it contained no concrete evidence of wrongdoing but essentially relied on surmises.

Such notices can set a dangerous precedence and pose a threat to judicial independence as any political party, whether the ruling or the opposition, might be emboldened to seek removal of Chief Justice if it does not agree with his verdicts. The impeachment is too serious an issue to be played with on grounds of disagreement with any judgment or with any point of view of the court. The Chief Justice is the master of the roster and his decisions on case allocation should not become the ground for impeachment simply because some people disagree with his calls. There is no doubt that a rift exists among the SC judges over allocation of work but the matter must be left to the judiciary to sort out and the Congress should desist from fishing in troubled waters. Instead of playing politics with the judiciary, the Opposition must work in tandem with the government to create a mechanism for improving judicial accountability and removing flaws in the appointment of judges. The judiciary has inherent resilience to overcome internal differences and carry out necessary course corrections to become more transparent and responsive.