Target is Modi, not CJI Misra

The real objective of the impeachment motion moved by the Congress is to intimidate the CJI into recusing himself from ‘sensitive’ cases

Published: 26th April 2018 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th April 2018 09:54 AM   |  A+A-

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The relentless Congress-led move to impeach Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, following the decision to take the matter back to the Supreme Court, may backfire on its proponents.

A political move to smear the judiciary by attacking the CJI without credible evidence received stern criticism from India’s most respected jurists, including Fali Nariman and Soli Sorabjee. 

After the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, summarily rejected on April 23 the notice of motion to impeach the CJI, the Congress showed its ruthless streak. A livid Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president, ordered party MP and senior counsel Kapil Sibal to announce at a press conference that the vice president’s order would be challenged in the Supreme Court.

The irony of the move exposes the Congress’s duplicity. It moved Parliament because it was dissatisfied with the Supreme Court over many issues, including those raised by four members of the apex court’s Collegium. Now it is planning to move the Supreme Court because it is dissatisfied with the Parliament following the Rajya Sabha chairman’s order. Is there a method in this madness? The notice of motion to impeach the CJI was in any case invalid at inception because the Congress, by publicising its intention beforehand, violated the rules of procedure governing impeachment motions. 

With critical Assembly polls due in Karnataka next month, the Congress has calculated that showing the BJP as being complicit with the judiciary will be electorally beneficial even if there is a public opinion backlash against its cynical tactics. The real objective of the impeachment motion is to intimidate the CJI into recusing himself from “sensitive” cases like Ayodhya-Ram Mandir which are being heard by his Bench. But Misra is made of sterner stuff. He has told colleagues that he will not recuse himself from any cases, and certainly not from sensitive ones, even as the Congress challenge wends its way through the Supreme Court. 

A majority of senior lawyers in the Supreme Court have backed the CJI and condemned the impeachment motion which Opposition parties like the TMC, DMK and BJD refused to support. Senior Supreme Court advocate Rakesh Dwivedi was especially blunt: “Congress has fallen to an abysmal low in moving a motion of impeachment after the Supreme Court’s Loya judgment. Apparently it was issuing the threat of a motion to deflect the course of the judgment in the Loya case in favour of its political interest.

And when the judgment did not meet its expectations, Congress filed the motion. The move is also intended to delay hearing of the Babri Masjid case, over which Kapil Sibal made fervent pleas to the court. The motion is ill-advised and founded on baseless charges. Its purpose is only to compel CJI Dipak Misra to recuse. Congress knows no inquiry will end by the time the CJI retires. The party also knows it lacks strength in Parliament to succeed. So this is not an impeachment motion but a recusal motion.” 

The real target of the Congress of course is not CJI Misra but the Narendra Modi government. The CJI is regarded as collateral damage. When a CJI-led Bench that included Justices Chandrachud and Khanwilkar dismissed the PILs filed by proxies of the Congress in the Judge Loya case, party President Rahul Gandhi was reportedly furious.

It was decided to file the impeachment motion the very next day, however negative the optics following the Loya judgment. Once the Rajya Sabha chairman rejected the notice of motion for impeachment, it was again Rahul who insisted on challenging the order in the Supreme Court where the matter will obviously be heard by a Bench other than the CJI’s. The challenge will almost certainly fail but drawn-out proceedings in the apex court are aimed at further humiliating the CJI. 

Rahul moreover sees the legal process as a means to cast aspersions on the Modi government’s alleged influence over the apex court. Ever since he became prime minister in May 2014, the Congress, the Left and minority-leaning parties like the NCP and SP have spared no effort to discredit Modi. In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the Opposition has spotted a vulnerability in Modi.

The Gujarat Assembly result, with the BJP reduced to 99 seats, gave the first inkling of Modi’s fading electoral magic. Bypolls in Rajasthan, where the BJP was trounced, added to the hope that the Modi wave had ebbed. The Uttar Pradesh and Bihar by-elections, especially the BJP’s defeat in Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s Gorakhpur, convinced Rahul and his new coterie of advisors that it was time to deliver the knockout punch to Modi. 

If CJI Misra finds in favour of building the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya before he retires on 2 October 2018, the surge in Hindu sentiment would tilt the 2019 Lok Sabha polls towards the BJP. It was thus critical to force the recusal of CJI Misra from the Ayodhya case—even if the motion to impeach him in order to achieve that objective is based on bogus grounds. This is the level to which Indian politics has sunk. For the Congress though, it’s not the first time it has tried to subvert the Supreme Court for political gain. Indira Gandhi did it in 1975 during the Emergency. Grandson Rahul Gandhi is doing it more subtly 43 years later. 

Over the decades, the Congress has built up an ecosystem of journalists, bureaucrats, activists and lawyers to advance its causes, both legitimate and illegitimate. Most of these propagandists have revealed themselves in the current impeachment saga. When the ploy backfires on the Congress—as it inevitably will—this putrid ecosystem will discover that its days too are numbered.


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