Sibal’s refusal to argue on the merits of the matter itself indicates that he was aware that neither his petition challenging Vice President’s decision had any merit nor the original impeachment notice had
Impeachment notice against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was a deliberate attempt by the sidelined opposition especially the Congress party to gain some political advantage. But, its gimmick failed halfway when Rajya Sabha Chairman and VP Venkaiah Naidu rejected this impeachment notice. Old habits die hard. The Congress party was in no mood to let its effort vanish midway. So, to nothing but to further politicise the matter, on May 7, the team Congress under the captainship of its lawyer MP Kapil Sibal challenged the decision of the Vice President again in Supreme Court by designating the decision as ‘politically motivated’.
In SC too, the petitioners did not prefer to list the so-called ‘urgent’ matter before the Honourable CJI, rather they approached a bench headed by Justice Chelameswar, who in turn first asked Mr Sibal to mention the matter before the CJI. However, the honourable Justice later agreed to consider the petition the next day.
Late in the evening, the matter was listed for the next day before a five-judge bench headed by Justice Sikri. Justice Bobde, Justice Ramana, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Goel were the other four members of the bench. But Mr Sibal was not happy with the bench because somehow it seems that he wanted a bench of his choice; So on May 8, he requested a copy of the administrative order for constitution of the bench. This meant that, instead of arguing on the merit of the case, he wanted first to challenge that order of constitution of the bench. The bench noticed this and clearly rejected Sibal’s request asking him to argue on merits of the matter. But apparently, the petitioners knew that their matter hardly had any merit and thus decided to withdraw their petition. This is how, the court dismissed the petition as withdrawn.
The episode ended but left behind many unanswered questions. The most obvious one is that was Mr Sibal expecting a favourable bench and this is why he questioned the constitution of the five-judges bench? Someone is open to conclude from this episode that he wanted the four ‘rebel’ judges to hear the matter, hoping to get a favourable verdict. Because, the impeachment notice also included a few points raised by these judges against the so-called ‘abuse of power’ by the CJI. However, he forgot to understand that judiciary has its own glory and it can never allow itself to be used as a tool to settle political scores. Therefore, the decision to form a bench excluding all five judges (the four ‘rebel’judges and the CJI) and include the next five judges in the order of seniority appears to be a just one. It should be noted that Justice Sikri at No. 6 also succeeds the seniority list after these five judges.
The second question is that whether in a democratic framework, political parties should be allowed to drag judiciary for such petty political gains? This needs a consideration in light of healthy future for Indian democracy. Because, Sibal’s refusal to argue on the merits of the matter itself indicates that he was aware that neither his petition challenging Vice President’s decision had any merit nor the original impeachment notice had. The big question is that even after biting the dust, will the political parties learn a lesson?
But, this whole episode also has a hidden message for the judiciary. The level of respect, faith and honour the judicial system in India holds, especially the higher judiciary, it is also imperative that judiciary maintains its dignity and resolve its differences internally instead of exposing them in public.