The overwhelming view of legal minds in the Congress was against bringing or supporting an impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The view emerged a day after CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said Opposition parties were “considering” the option as it was the only way the legislature could ensure an inquiry into “serious issues” raised by four senior judges of the Supreme Court.
The Indian Express spoke to several legal minds in the Congress, many of who attended a meeting chaired by Congress president Rahul Gandhi on January 12 to formulate the Opposition party’s response after Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, in an unprecedented move, publicly aired grievances that questioned the conduct of CJI Misra over allocation of cases to judges.
“Unless there are proper grounds, you cannot go in for impeachment. Unless there are proper grounds, solid grounds… on concrete terms, you cannot go in for impeachment. There is no sufficient ground…. Unless evidence is available, I don’t think it is proper to go for impeachment of the CJI…. It is not going to serve the purpose,” former Law Minister M Veerappa Moily told The Indian Express. “It is not a political issue…. Going for impeachment of the CJI should not be a political issue. It should be a judicial issue,” he added.
Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar agreed with Moily’s assessment. He said he was “deeply concerned” over reports suggesting such a proposal was being discussed. “Given the totality of circumstances, this is not a case for exploring the extreme remedy of impeachment which, as per established law and practice, can only be resorted to where facts constituting moral turpitude are established beyond doubt,” he said.
Kumar said “any hasty or ill-considered decision by the political parties will be counter-productive as far as the end objective of establishing the independence of judiciary is concerned. Any adventurism in this regard will inevitably pit the political and executive wings of the government against the judicial branch. This would escalate the intra-institutional conflict which will ill-serve our constitutional democracy.”
He said parties must also consider the “sensitivity of the legal fraternity across the country before taking any final decision in this regard.” He said the “political class can be accused of an assault on judicial independence and can be accused of browbeating the judiciary.”
Abhishek Singhvi, a senior Congress leader and former chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on law and justice, said that while one cannot speak for any other party, “as of now no decision in this regard has been taken by the Congress”. He said speaking in his private capacity: “I would not agree with this approach.”
Former Union Minister Manish Tewari said: “As far I understand there has been no substantive discussion about it so far. And impeachment is an extremely serious matter and all facts and circumstances, attendant or otherwise, have to be considered in very great detail before a decision can be reached either way.”