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Judicial system must be subjected to public debate

Judicial system must be subjected to public debate

Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu rejected the Congress-led opposition parties’ motion to impeach Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra.

With the Congress announcing that it would challenge the rejection in the Supreme Court, the country’s judicial system and the parliamentary system are likely to lock horns with each other and lead to a rare and highly complex legal crisis. It was the unprecedented press conference held by four senior Supreme Court judges that mainly led to the impeachment move. During the press conference, the judges sharply criticized that the favoritism displayed by CJI Dipak Misra in the allocation of cases to different benches leads to the loss of credibility in the overall functioning of the justice delivering system. The later measures of the CJI who failed in appropriately resolving the allegations raised during the press conference, reinforced the grievances and also triggered new allegations. The transparency of the court procedures has been questioned to such an extent that senior lawyer Kapil Sibal has vowed not to appear before the bench of the CJI.

Dipak Misra himself was the head of the benches that rejected the petitions which were filed demanding clear guidelines for the allocation of cases to the judges and an independent re-investigation of judge B H Loya’s mysterious death. Dispassionate Constitutional experts consider these verdicts as a death-knell of the judiciary's credibility. With Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu rejecting the impeachment notice that took shape in these circumstances, on the grounds that it lacked substantive evidence, the Centre is attempting to close all possibilities of debate urgently needed for regaining the credibility of the judiciary. With the rejection of the motion by the opposition raising five allegations including misuse of power and conspiracy over the dealings of bribes entering the court, it might turn into a complicated litigation about the rights of the judiciary and the Parliament.

It is for the first time in the country's history that an attempt is being to impeach the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Nor has there been a situation earlier when the independence and impartiality has suffered a beating. The indefinite delay in the appointment of judges under political pressures is also unprecedented. The letter written by Justice of Supreme Court, Kurien Joseph to CJI, saying that the existence of the Supreme Court itself is under threat, tells the crisis that the apex court has come to at present. In his letter Justice Kurien Joseph wrote "Failure to discharge their [Govt's] duty by sitting over on the recommendations of the Collegium doing nothing, in administrative law, is abuse of power. More than anything else, it sends a wrong message which is loud and clear to all Judges down the line not to cause any displeasure to the Executive lest they should suffer. ….. In these circumstances, I am of the view that following the precedent in Justice Karnan’s case, we should take up the matter on the judicial side in a Bench of first seven or more as you please...." and requested the CJI " in the interest of this great institution and independence of the judiciary …… have an appropriate Bench in the lines of the precedent set by Justice Karnan’s case constituted forthwith.....otherwise history will not pardon us ". These words convey the imperativeness of a serious public debate about the current judicial machinery. As Justice J Chelameswar said, in order to regain the credibility of the Supreme Court, an urgent corrective process is essential. Thus, the independent existence of the Supreme Court will greatly depend on the ability to politically evolve the impeachment resolution and the court procedure in such a way as to help democracy and judiciary transparent and impartial.

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