Hours after the Congress and six Opposition parties gave a notice for moving an impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, two senior Congress leaders and former Law Ministers expressed their reservations to The Indian Express.
While Ashwani Kumar said the move will be “counter-productive” arguing that the “the remedy cannot be worse than the malaise,” Salman Khurshid said that he was “saddened” at the developments. Another former Law Minister M Veerappa Moily, who had earlier opposed the plan to move an impeachment motion, declined to comment.
Sources close to him said he was unhappy but would not like to openly question the party’s decision.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not sign the petition. Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh too were not signatories. Lawyer-politician Abhishek Singhvi was the last MP to sign last Sunday after some prodding from the Congress high command. Sources in the Congress said he had advised against the move and was reluctant to sign but had to relent.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said Manmohan Singh was “deliberately” kept out since it was a Constitutional issue and he was a former prime minister. “As for others, we did not want them to be embarrassed since their (legal) matters are pending.”
The petition has the signatures of 64 MPs whereas the combined strength of the seven parties stood at 79.
Kumar was candid. “It is a sad day and a watershed moment in the history of our country. The inescapable inter-institutional conflict will ill-serve our constitutional democracy. If Parliamentarians believe that the facts merit the initiation of the impeachment motion, they will be within their rights to initiate the process. But in my personal opinion, the move could be counter-productive,” he told The Indian Express.
He said even Justice J Chelameswar is reported to have commented that “impeachment is not probably the only remedy to the misgivings pointed out by the judges. “Wisdom demands that we withdraw from the brink lest we repent at leisure. The remedy cannot be worse than the malaise. Clearly, all is not well in the highest court, yet whether the impeachment motion will serve a national purpose is debatable, to say the least.”
Without naming his party, Kumar said: “It appears that the full dimensions of the move need to be further explored.” And added that “in moments of crisis, democratic politics demands that conscientious dissent where necessary should be publicly stated to invigorate the democratic processes.”
Khurshid said he was not consulted. “Nobody talked to me. So I have no idea what it is, why it is and where it is. I didn’t have any discussion with anybody. Therefore, I have no material on which I can give my reaction. But I feel very saddened that this has happened. To give my opinion on whether this is right or wrong or effective or ineffective…nobody has actually talked to me. I have not had the benefit of anyone explaining to me,” he said. “I can’t see any straight forward resolution but I just hope there is no lasting damage to our institutions.”
Asked about the charges listed out by the Opposition in its petition and whether those charges warrant such a step, he said: “It is like when somebody asks me when the judges came out and gave a press conference, is it justified. I said I don’t know because they have must have reflected on it. But we have not seen any details of their agony. Therefore, how do I say it has reached a point where they should have done or not done it.”
“Similarly, the party has indicated five issues, but I don’t know on what basis…what is the backdrop? If somebody had explained it to me, I would have been then in a position to say something. Nobody has explained it to me, so I don’t know,” he said.
Incidentally, Khurshid was among the senior leaders Rahul Gandhi consulted after the four seniormost judges came out against the CJI in January.