Soli Sorabjee: The impeachment of the CJI was a bad move

An impeachment is serious, says former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, and just because you don’t like a certain judgement of a judge, or certain orders you can’t want a person out of the way

NH Photo
NH Photo

Soli Sorabjee

The Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu did the correct thing in rejecting the motion. It did not merit acceptance.

An impeachment on the ground of misbehavior is a serious thing. Now, because you don’t like a certain judgement of a judge, or certain orders you can’t want a person out of the way. By starting this process, you are really affecting the independence of the judiciary.

In this case, I’m not able to understand what Kapil Sibal has said. To me, it seems that according to their opinion certain orders are not correct, but that doesn’t make it a strong case for impeachment. If you do this, it will really affect the public perception of the judiciary; It is an extremely wrong move and I’m not at all in favour of it.

One should remember that a mature statesman such as Manmohan Singh has not signed it; even Salman Khurshid refused to sign it. One can’t simply sign a paper to remove the judges; then what happens to the security of tenure of judges?

One of the things which assures independence of the judiciary is the security of tenure – you can’t be removed at the will of the executive. It’s not that judges can’t be removed at all – they can be. Impeachment is for proved misbehavior –but the examples given by Kapil Sibal at the press conference do not make any ground for impeachment at all.

Kapil Sibal must have been annoyed with a particular case which he wanted heard only after 2019 (Ayodhya), but the chief justice did not grant it. That might be the reason.

The opposition should also remember that they do not have the numbers. So, why are they doing this? Is it to embarrass the judge, to humiliate him or to send the message to other judges that they will have to go through this process of embarrassment if you pass an order which is not perceived to be correct? This motion is nothing but to bully the judges.

It was an ill-conceived and ill-thought move because the implication of such a move is that it will affect public perception of the independence of the judiciary. And that is extremely important.

Now, people come to courts because they believe they will get a fair hearing. If that faith is eroded, then people will be forced to settle out of courts with the mafia on their terms. Some people will win, some will lose, but the whole idea is that they should get an impression that they got a fair hearing.

If you are going to impeach someone on insinuations that you are favouring someone, then that is not on solid grounds. It must be on solid, cogent evidence.

Even Justice Chelameshwar, who was one of those judges who had called that press briefing, had made it clear that impeachment is not the solution. But, I was not in favour of the judges of the Supreme court holding a public conference either. I believe they could have handled it better – they could have approached the Attorney General or a few former chief justices rather than going public with their view.

To resolve this, the Chief Justice should also discuss with his colleagues; they should all get together to find a way out. Cases should be allocated in consultation with others.

The aim of this impeachment motion was to embarrass the BJP. I don’t think the motive was against the court so much. It was only to play political games. Politics should be kept out, even the judges should realise that.

(As told to Ashlin Mathew)

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