Two senior Congress leaders and former Law Ministers Salman Khurshid and Ashwani Kumar have expressed their reservations over the grand old party and other opposition parties’ decision to give an impeachment notice against Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra. According to a report by The Indian Express, while Khurshid said that he was not consulted by the party and that he was unhappy with the move, Kumar termed the development a ‘watershed moment in the history of India’.
Khurshid told the daily that he was not kept in the loop by the party before taking the decision. The former Union minister, however, added that he feels very ‘saddened that this has happened’. To a question, Khurshid replied that he can’t see any straightforward resolution to the situation and expressed hope that ‘there is no lasting damage to our institutions’. When asked about the opposition’s charges in the notice, he said that party has indicated five issues but he has no idea what is the backdrop. Notably, Khurshid was among the senior leaders who were consulted by Congress president Rahul Gandhi after four senior-most SC judges had addressed the media expressing their anger over the CJI’s style of functioning.
Kumar said that the inescapable inter-institutional conflict will ill-serve constitutional democracy. He added that in his personal opinion, the development could be counter-productive. He, however, said that if MPs believe that the acts merit the initiation of the impeachment motion, they will be within their rights to initiate the process. Stating that ‘clearly all is not well in the highest court’, he noted that even Justice J Chelameswar is reported to have said that impeachment is not 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,” he said. Kumar, without naming the Congress party told the daily that the ‘full dimensions of the move need to be explored’. “In moments of crisis, democratic politics demands that conscientious dissent where necessary should be publicly stated to invigorate the democratic processes,” he said.
Another senior Congress leader and former Law Minister M Veerappa Moily who had earlier opposed the impeachment motion refused to make any direct comment. Citing sources, IE report said that he is unhappy but wouldn’t question the party.
The impeachment motion given to Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu on Friday has the signature of 64 Upper House lawmakers. The impeachment motion originates when at least 50 Rajya Sabha members (100 in the case of Lok Sabha) give a signed notice to the presiding officer.
Interestingly, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not sign the petition. Senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Digvijaya Singh too were not signatories. Another party leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi signed the petition at the last moment on Saturday after party high command urged him to back the move. Singh was also said to have advised the party against the move and was unwilling to sign it.
The fate of the motion now rests with the Rajya Sabha Chairman, who is likely to seek legal opinion before accepting or rejecting it, according to a report by news agency IANS. If the Chairman decides to admit the motion, a three-member committee will be set up comprising a Supreme Court judge, Chief Justice of a High Court and a distinguished jurist to look into the complaint. According to the Constitution, a judge can only be removed by an order of the President based on a motion adopted by the Parliament on grounds of ‘proven misbehaviour or incapacity’.