The Opposition parties have presented five reasons to justify the impeachment motion against chief justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra by laying out incidents of "misconduct" on part of Misra.
The allegations range from his involvement in the medical admissions scam to administrative impropriety. As vice-president Venkaiah Naidu has rejected the motion, the matter is all set to rock the Supreme Court.
But the present impeachment motion seems to suggest that CJI Dipak Misra is the root of everything that is currently wrong with the Supreme Court. It's a deeply misleading and absolutely incorrect picture. I shall elaborate on two arguments to establish that the attack on the CJI is purely a political move and will end up harming the judiciary.
First, the present move of the Opposition parties to seek the impeachment motion is a very low attempt to harp political benefits out of the systemic issues that plague the Supreme Court.
By "low" I mean that it's purely for partisan reasons and doesn't address the problems that it claims to which are primarily institutional in nature. Much worse, it attempts to score political points at the altar of a troubled judiciary.
It is difficult to believe that the Opposition, armed with battery of top lawyers, didn't expect that the chairman of Rajya Sabha, Naidu in this case, may refuse to admit the motion. Even if the motion was allowed to go through, the Opposition doesn't have the numbers in Parliament to sustain it. The attempt has been to insist that the CJI steps down either for legal or for larger propriety reasons.
When the Opposition moves SC, it will end up creating a constitutionally precarious situation because the CJI cannot deal with the matter and the top four judges have already been vocal about their disagreements with the CJI.
There would also be questions about who will exercise administrative powers to allocate the case since CJI is the sole "master of roster".
Let's deal with the medical admissions scam case.
Even the worst critics of CJI Dipak Misra shall concede that there is absolutely no evidence against him in the Prasad Educational Trust case. He did not pass any orders that favoured the college in question. The call intercepts prove nothing.
The allegation of producing a false affidavit while Misra practised as a lawyer was a ground that could have been considered only when he was elevated to judgeship, this can't be a ground for impeachment.
As far as exercise of his administrative powers is concerned, one wonders how Opposition parties reached the conclusion that a back dated administrative note was prepared. What evidence do they have?
Also it's not that no other CJI in the past has faced such allegations of corruption. Former CJI KG Balakrishnan faced similar allegations. The most recent in the league of cases is the suicide letter written by late chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Kalikho Pul, which named former CJI JS Khehar and other judges for seeking bribe through their relatives.
Let's now come to administrative impropriety. Recently justice Jasti Chelameswar conceded that selective assignment of cases is not new in Supreme Court. He even went on to concede that Jayalalithaa's disproportionate assets case was selectively assigned and that didn't happen during the tenure of CJI Dipak Misra but during the tenure of former CJI HL Dattu, who is now the chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission.
My second argument is that the current issues that plague the judiciary are purely institutional in nature. CJI Dipak Misra hasn't exercised his powers any worse than his predecessors.
But he has indeed failed as an administrator in managing the power equations within the Supreme Court, which his predecessors managed rather better.
Beyond this, to my mind, he is being used as a shield in political cross-firings. He happens to be the CJI at a point when the voices within the judiciary are screaming for reforms.
It can be argued that CJI Misra has failed to win the confidence of his fellow judges and on the administrative side, there has been greater concentration of power. However, to say that the present problems of Supreme Court are only about one judge is a misleading political project. The problem is not of a personality but of the institution and the lack of transparent processes.
It's time the apex court stands up to the political assault and protect the institution by undertaking internal reforms. Any face-saving attempt shall only make the situation worse.