The Opposition move to impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra is “a horribly black day in the history of the Supreme Court” and will not only diminish the public’s faith in the judiciary, but will open the door for the ruling party to move against a judge if it doesn’t like a particular judgment, senior jurist Fali Nariman has said. “This is a horribly black day… The blackest possible day. I’ve never seen a day like this. In my 67 years, I’ve never seen a day like this,” Nariman said in an exclusive interview to The Sunday Express.
Nariman pointed out that the charges brought by the Congress-led Opposition were not in line with what the four most senior judges — Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan Lokur —stated in their press conference on January 12. “One of the (Opposition’s) charges is forgery. But… the four judges didn’t subscribe to this charge. You have to be conscious that this is a serious charge against the Chief Justice of India. This is a very serious move, you have to have cogent evidence. You have to have something to prove,” Nariman said.
On whether the impeachment move was in reaction to the Supreme Court’s dismissal on April 19 of petitions seeking a probe into CBI special judge B H Loya’s death, Nariman said Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Kapil Sibal had clarified that they had “moved the Vice-President one week before”.
He pointed out that it was imperative to have “extraordinarily important grounds” to impeach the Chief Justice because “the final interpreters of the Constitution is the judiciary and not Parliament. The persons who finally and irrevocable interpret the Constitution are the highest court. Parliament can (only) pass a Constitutional amendment,” he said. Bringing forth such charges against the Chief Justice amounts to “destroying the Constitution,” Nariman added.
He said he wanted to know why former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hadn’t signed on to the impeachment move. “You have to be extraordinarily circumspect. I am sure that Dr Manmohan Singh realises this. He hasn’t signed. Why? What has it got to do with the fact that he was prime minister? I would like to see his signature. I have great regard for him. If he is convinced that these charges are valid, why hasn’t he signed? I have great trust and faith in Dr Singh, I believe that he is a very honourable man, and I would like to know why he hasn’t signed,” Nariman asked.
The jurist pointed out that one of the most serious consequences of the Opposition’s move to impeach the Chief Justice would be to encourage the government to bring charges before any judge whom they disliked.
“Suppose I am a judge and I have a cast iron case against the government. But I will be very fearful to decide against the government in a politically charged case. If members of the ruling party don’t like a particular judgment.Suppose the Ayodhya case (the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi land title) goes against them and the SC says this land belongs to Muslims and not Hindus. Suppose this happens. I am not saying it will, but suppose. are they going to impeach the judges?” Nariman said.
He said the impact of this move would be “to bring the Supreme Court, which is on the ground floor, to the basement. It is hopeless, hopeless.” he said, pointing out that he wasn’t sure if the Opposition parties had fully considered everything before them.
On how the judiciary can win back public trust, he said, “If you ask me what is to be done, then I would say that the four judges who wrote this letter in January could say that whilst we maintain what we said in our letter of January 12, we were never party to subscribe to any charge against the Chief Justice to warrant his impeachment. They must say that. In the public mind, they only know that this is due to what the four judges (said). But what about the other 21 judges in the Supreme Court, has anyone asked them? They are all honourable people.