Seven opposition parties led by the Congress on Friday submitted a petition to Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu seeking removal of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on grounds of alleged improprieties. This is an unprecedented step in the annals of India's parliamentary democracy, when some opposition parties submitted a petition seeking removal of the CJI.
The Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley promptly posted his comments on Facebook saying "the Congress Party and its friends have started using impeachment as a political tool".
Describing it as a 'revenge petition', Jaitley wrote: "Both Houses of Parliament as political houses have been conferred the judicial power of impeachment. Thus a judicial power is exercised by a political house. Each Member has to act as a Judge. He has to independently review the facts and the evidence. Decisions cannot be on party lines or dictated by Whip. The power is exercised in case of "proven misconduct". Trivialising the use of that power is a dangerous event.... To use the power as intimidatory tactics when neither you have a case of "proven misconduct" or the numbers on your side, is a serious threat to judicial independence."
Already there are rumblings and voices of dissent in the Congress on this issue. Senior leaders Salman Khurshid and Ashwini Kumar have been Law Ministers in the past, and listening to their remarks, one can easily surmise that they are not happy with this move. If one listens to the comments and observe the body language of party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, an eminent lawyer himself, he was frequently using the phrase "an individual" without naming the Chief Justice of India.
My view is that this move by the opposition parties, led by Congress, seems to be an act of revenge against the CJI for severely reprimanding the petitioners in the Judge Loya verdict given on Thursday, for, what it said, trying to "settle political scores" through the PIL process.
The Congress party knows it well that it has no majority either in the Lok Sabha or in the Rajya Sabha, and the CJI cannot be removed by vote. But the targets appear to be two: One, a worried CJI may resign in a hurry and the party can claim a big victory, and Two, if the CJI does not resign, the party could utilize the opportunity to take potshots at Prime Minister Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, in the guise of targeting the CJI. According to a popular Bollywood lyric, this can be called "kahin pe nigahen, kahin pe nishaana".
This act of the Congress is dangerous for our democracy and it will set a shameful precedent. For a democracy to be strong and thriving, institutions like the judiciary, the Election Commission and the Fourth Estate should be kept away from politics. Such democratic institutions should not be misused to settle political scores. This has been the long standing tradition of the Congress, and even most of its own leaders do not agree with this motion for removal of CJI.