On 20th April, the Congress Party moved an Impeachment motion against the Chief Justice of India. It was expected considering the unfavorable verdict for the Congress and other opposition parties in the Judge Loya death case as they were trying to entangle BJP President Amit Shah into it by appealing for a ‘free and fair’ investigation into the death. Judge Loya was hearing a case where BJP President Amit Shah was an accused and died under ‘mysterious circumstances’ according to the petitioners. The court opined that the petitions lacked merit and went on to say that the conduct of the petitioners was “lacking in bona fides and reveals a misuse of the judicial process”. Therefore we can infer that the petition lacked substance and was politically motivated. The Court opined regarding the misutilisation of PILs “by people with personal agenda”. It also said the present one was also a case of misutilisation.
It did not stop there. On one side if it was a politically motivated petition, on the other there was continuous attempt to defame the Judiciary by making unfounded allegations against the judges. One of the petitioners Mr.Prashant Bhushan argued that two of the judges in the Bench ‘may have known’ the judicial officers and therefore they should recuse themselves from hearing the petition. To this the court replied when a “Judge faced with such wanton attacks to withdraw from a case, it would amount to abdication of duty”. It was a perfect case for Contempt of Court under the Contempt of Courts Act 1971. The Court observed–
“…on a dispassionate view of the matter, we have chosen not to initiate proceedings by way of criminal contempt if only not to give an impression that the litigants and the lawyers appearing for them have been subjected to an unequal battle with the authority of law. We rest in the hope that the Bar of the nation is resilient to withstand such attempts on the judiciary. The judiciary must continue to perform its duty even if it is not to be palatable to some. The strength of the judicial process lies not in the fear of a coercive law of contempt. The credibility of the judicial process is based on its moral authority. It is with that firm belief that we have not invoked the jurisdiction in contempt.”
It is not a secret that since past few months, Court proceedings at times have turned ugly. Be it Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal threatening to stage a ‘walk out’ of the Court or Mr.Prashant Bhushan doubting the statements of the judicial officers, the aura has definitely not been the same as it was when Legal Luminaries such as Ram Jethmalani, Nani Palkhivala and others argued. This reminds us of the Vinay Chandra Mishra case where Advocate Vinay Chandra had hurled abuses at the judge and was subsequently found guilty of Contempt of Court. The behavior of some of the advocates now, has been nothing less than that of Mr.Vinay Chandra. Therefore, is there a need for the Court to pull up some of these advocates and initiate Criminal Contempt against them? May be the time has come for the Court to take extreme steps.
Coming to the politics being played around the Judiciary, it is not new for the Congress to sabotage the functioning of the Judiciary. Back in 1973, after the verdict of Keshavananda Bharati Vs State of Kerala case, three senior most Supreme Court judges were superseded for the post of Chief Justice. The Congress of Smt.Indira Gandhi clearly sent a message to the Judiciary that it had to align its views with the Congress government failing which the institution itself can be abused. A couple of years after this, National Emergency was declared following the verdict of Raj Narain Case where Smt.Indira Gandhi was found guilty of misusing state machinery for election purposes. Therefore it is in the DNA of Congress to intimidate the Judiciary whenever the judgements have not favoured it.
The Impeachment motion moved by the Congress relies on the unprecedented press conference of four senior judges of Supreme Court who expressed displeasure regarding the “selective allocation of cases” to few judges which included the Case of death of Judge Loya. Justice Chelameswar, one of the judges who expressed displeasure in the press conference, later in an interview told that ‘impeachment is not the solution to all the problems’. Despite this the Congress has gone ahead and mentioned unfounded charges in the notice. It was rightly rejected by the Chairman of Rajya Sabha after considering the merits of the allegations and consulting other legal experts. The motion itself has words like “may have”, “likely” which means those who submitted the motion are themselves not sure of the charges and therefore lacks credibility. According to Article 124 (4), a Supreme Court judge can be impeached only the grounds of “proved misbehaviour or incapacity” which is not the case here as the charges levelled are not “proven beyond reasonable doubt”. It is surprising to see that Mr.Kapil Sibal who had spoken against the procedure for impeachment of judges in an interview to NDTV in 2010 is leading the coterie of those asking for it. In fact, it was Mr.Kapil Sibal who had stood against impeachment of Justice Ramaswami in 1991. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in a tweet called this motion as ‘Intimidation of India’s judiciary’.
However, the Congress party did not stop its propaganda of abuses against the CJI even after the Rajya Sabha Chairman rejected their motion. Congress Social Media head Divya Spandana tweeted a scandalous photo containing unfounded, unsubstantiated allegations of CJI fixing benches. The tweet can be seen below-
This clearly qualifies to be contempt of court under Contempt of Courts Act 1971. If abuses of such kind which bring disrepute to the Judiciary are left unattended, citizen’s trust in the judiciary will erode. Rather, it would not be wrong to say that it has been already eroded to some extent. Thanks to the Congress party which is trying to do everything to stay relevant in the national arena. It is clear that the Congress, does not want the Ayodhya Verdict to be given before 2019 elections, and is ready to do anything for that. Nani Palkhivala came out with a booklet in 1973 ‘A Judiciary made to measure’ after three senior Supreme Court judges were superseded, perfectly describes the present situation where there are abuses hurled at the judiciary by people who have questionable pasts and credibility. At any cost this has to be abated and the judiciary has to punish abusers for criminal contempt suo moto.