Prashant Bhushan: There was no option left, but to impeach the CJI

It is not an easy proposition to get MPs to sign an impeachment motion, says senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan. They did it because there was evidence against the CJI

NH Photo
NH Photo

Prashant Bhushan

Impeachment of a SC judge is a very-very difficult proposition. In my experience it is very difficult to persuade 100 MPs of the Lok Sabha or 50 MPs of the Rajya Sabha to sign a motion against a judge, leave alone the Chief Justice of India. The reason is that most political parties have cases pending in the courts. Their leaders are also drawn into it and they don’t want their cases to suffer on account of impeachment.

Impeachment motions must satisfy two parameters—you should have conclusive documents of serious misconduct and two, if it has become a political scandal.

Now in the present case, three things were satisfied –there was a lot of documentary evidence in support of several serious charges. Two, it had become a public scandal, particularly because of extensive media coverage of the medical college scam case, the Loya case and the coverage of the four judges’ press conference about the CJI misusing his power as Master of the Roster etc.

In the medical college matter, CBI had enough evidence to proceed against judges. We have to remember that CBI has filed an FIR in this case.

The ruling party clearly wants to control all cases which it is uncomfortable with, be it the Birla-Sahara case, the Loya case, the Rakesh Asthana case and so on.

It is also important to understand that impeachment of the CJI was no longer a matter of choice. No option was left. The four senior most judges had already interceded with the CJI but he didn’t listen to them. I submitted a complaint under in-house procedure, but it has not moved anywhere because in-house procedure dosen’t say anything about complaints against CJI. So, what was the option?

Should we just sit by and watch the entire SC being eroded from within? And we don’t do anything because of the fear of judiciary coming under disrepute? The fact is that the judiciary has already come under disrepute.

I have seen people say that the impeachment move was politically motivated. I want to state that impeachment by its very nature is a political move, according to the Constitution. When Members of Parliament move the motion then it is political and it is they who hold the key.

It is disturbing that people in the government are saying that it is a revenge impeachment because the Supreme Court ruled in the Judge Loya matter that the PIL meant Political Interest Litigation.

The fact is that the Judge Loya judgement was delivered on April 19 but five days before that the Opposition had requested the Vice President for time to present the impeachment motion. The signatures were secured even earlier. But after referring to the ruling in the Loya case, they are now saying that the Rajya Sabha chairman was considering the merit of impeachment for the past one month.

The Rajya Sabha chairman should have referred the charges to the inquiry committee. His rejection of the motion is arbitrary.

But the charges are out in the public domain.

These questions are very important, and they are not going to die soon. They will be seeking answers within the system. Crisis in the judicial system has deepened.

Now many voices are coming up. Judges are speaking, writing to raise the alarm, so one should sense how wide the divide is and how serious is the threat to democracy.

(As told to Bhasha Singh)

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