Necessary to restore trust between SC and government to put back ties on an even keel.
Panditji, maine apney time mein saath sey upar judge banaye hain… Us mein sey sab sey jayada Brahmin they… Aap bhi khayal rakhna… (I appointed over 60 judges in my time, a majority were Brahmins… You too should take care of our caste-brothers…)”
That was a former Law Minister who had served in successive Congress governments. He was chatting with the Law Minister in the A.B. Vajpayee government in the Central Hall of Parliament, unmindful of the presence of a couple of journalists. He would often boast of his sterling feat in favour of his jaat-bhais. A brief-less lawyer, he was rewarded beyond his wildest dreams for wearing his loyalty to Indira Gandhi on his rather thick arms. He never looked back. But once he had delivered on the assignment to bury the Bofors case a million fathoms deep, he found himself eased out, much to his chagrin, to some far outpost with a sinecure.
The point of recalling the above conversation is to emphasise that but for the excesses of the executive in foisting very often most undeserving candidates and generally mediocrities for judgeships, it is quite likely the backlash from the judiciary in assuming an upper hand in appointments would not have taken place. (Of course, the decline and fall you see in the judiciary now can be traced to the time of those reckless appointments.) The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which had the backing of all parties, was an attempt to correct the imbalance, but, as it invariably happens, no one, including the judges, likes to share power once it has been snatched for whatever reasons.
The current standoff between the judiciary and the executive stems from the rejection of the NJAC and the failure of the two key limbs of the Constitution to agree on a common draft of the promised memorandum of procedure for such appointments. One of the sticking points being national security, the Apex Court suspects that the term is so omnibus it could be used to stall the appointment of anyone the executive does not like, exploiting this unverifiable and undefined ground. Not an unfounded fear, one must admit.
However, it is the lack of trust, or rather the breakdown of communication between the government and the judiciary which accounts for the vexed relationship between the two. Of course, the Narendra Modi government is guilty of going down the same road vis-à-vis the judiciary, which successive Congress governments had so brazenly taken without any qualms. One knows of a senior Supreme Court judge, who on the eve of taking oath joined a long queue of mendicants in Indira Gandhi’s bi-weekly public darbar to convey his gratefulness. On being asked why he had not sought an appointment, he sheepishly muttered that he did not want anyone to know he was meeting her.
Without mincing words, let us be clear that the internal turmoil within the Apex Court would not have come to the fore but for the maliciousness of a solitary judge, who has systematically gone about creating a wedge between various CJIs and the rest of the judges. Given that Their Lordships too have political leanings and differing worldviews—who doesn’t?—some of them for their own reasons jumped on his bandwagon to embarrass the government. Add to this the role of a crafty akhbari leader hailing from the same region from which comes the recalcitrant judge and you have the real reason why the Congress was instigated to impeach the CJI. Notably, the CJI belongs to a distinguished family which has all along enjoyed the patronage of various Congress governments. He himself was appointed a High Court judge by a Congress government, but is now targeted because he refuses to honour the IOUs which the Congress thinks it holds for favours done in the past. Had the CJI played ball, abandoning judicial independence, he would have been the darling of the Congress.
In fact, the impeachment notice was virtually the last throw of the dice, so to speak, by the supporters of the malicious judge. Much hand-wringing by the movers that the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha took no time in rejecting it, actually foiled the next step in the plot which had envisaged seeking the CJI’s withdrawal from active duty till the sword of Damocles hung over his head. Had the plot been allowed to proceed as planned, the senior-most judge would have retired as the Acting Chief Justice of India. Now he must bid goodbye to the court which he did a lot to besmirch with his conspiratorial and undignified conduct as a mere judge.
Curiously, the Congress lawyer who is most voluble spearheading the impeachment notice not long ago was heard on a TV channel railing against the constitutional provision to remove errant members of the higher judiciary. He pooh-poohed the idea of “fifty or sixty MPs” collecting signatures to remove a judge, saying that the involvement of politicians in the process of impeachment was itself flawed and required a re-look. And now the same lawyer-politician is raising Cain because he cannot get to impeach CJI Misra despite his having gone and collected 70-odd signatures of seven different parties. You feel sorry for this richie-rich lawyer, whose financial wheeling-dealing recently made headlines in newspapers as far away as South Africa.
Meanwhile, thanks to the open divide in the Court, members of the Bar have felt encouraged to take sides. Some of these self-styled warriors for judicial independence do what they do in the hope that a change of guard in New Delhi might prove rewarding. Others are plain opportunists, having made huge fortunes abusing judges while pretending to be crusaders for the public weal. The fact that they offered no resistance when the previous governments rode a coach and four into the very edifice of the higher judiciary is proof enough that under the present regime judges, lawyers and everyone else, including the media, are able to freely protest, contrary to the propaganda by the secularist-liberal loudmouths.
PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF
Truth has a way of coming out. Not long ago the lawyer wife of a powerful UPA minister had pocketed Rs 1 crore in cash, courtesy a chit fund racketeer of Kolkata. Later, she found herself embroiled in controversy when the chit fund operator was investigated. She belatedly claimed she had declared the cash in her income tax return. The intermediary who took her to the racketeer had dipped into his loot and spent months in jail.
Well, such collateral damage happens all the time. Like when they raided the premises of the fugitive jeweller Nirav Modi. The who’s who of the business, legal and political world seemed to have spent outrageous sums in cash to buy his baubles. While some of them are quite well-known, the most puzzling is the name of a woman journalist. She can be heard spewing venom against the government on the Congress-friendly TV channels or putting out her great investigative reports on a viciously anti-Modi website. How and why she would dish out Rs 14 lakh in cash for some silly piece of jewellery defies understanding, though she claims, falsely, of course, that she paid through a card.
Meanwhile, it seems that everyone on the list has been sent notices and might have to shell out tax plus huge penalties. Among the recipients is the spouse of a Congress lawyer whose excessive greed has often landed him in awkward situations. Additionally, his flagrant breach of the marital vows has spawned many a salacious tale in the legal and political circles.
If the IPL has helped harness hitherto hidden cricketing talent, social media has given a lot of people an opportunity to showcase their creative side. Sample this one, for example: “Johnny Lever and Raju Srivastava are flops; Kapil Sharma is in depression; Asaram and Ram Rahim are in jail; Arvind Kejriwal is silent; in these humourless times, please, make do with Rahul Gandhi.” Amen.