SC order on Karnataka floor test exposes Rahul's blinkered vision on integrity of CJI and Indian judiciary

Now that the Supreme Court has effectively quashed the Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala's decision and slashed BJP chief minister BS Yeddyurappa's window to prove majority from 15 days to 24 hours (a key Congress demand), will Congress president Rahul Gandhi now admit he was wrong to cast aspersions on the judiciary? Will he apologise for his conduct?

File image of Supreme Court. AFP

File image of Supreme Court. AFP

The least the Gandhi scion should do is issue an unqualified public apology for attempting to bring the Indian judiciary into disrepute. It isn't just the petty attempt to impeach the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, in his effort to "get even" with Prime Minister Narendra Modi whom he is unable to defeat politically, the Congress president has made subversion of judiciary a cornerstone of his irresponsible, infantile and vituperative campaign. He has caused enough damage to the judiciary in general and the highest judicial forum in particular. He must cease and desist.

This issue hasn't arisen just because the highest court of the land just made a string of observations that are seemingly favourable to the Grand Old Party in a matter of utmost importance. The issue is bigger. By firing from the shoulders of dissenting judges, repeatedly dragging the judiciary through political mud, trying to use judges as pawns, playing off one brother judge against another, levelling unverified allegations: the Congress is constantly humiliating and belittling a public institution of high importance and integrity.

Not for the first time would Congress be guilty of this crime but Rahul has introduced in his attempted subversion a cavalier arrogance. In a country where public institutions are weak and ineffective barring a few, this may lead to erosion of faith in the judiciary and have a deleterious effect on democracy. The dynast must gather his wits and consider how he has turned himself into a laughing stock.

The chief justice admitted an urgent writ petition filed by the JD(S)-Congress coalition at midnight on Thursday. The CJI constituted a three-judge bench at 1.40 am to hear the petition (which continued well past 4 am). Barely a few hours later, the Congress president told a rally in Raipur that judiciary is "under severe attack" from the Modi government and the way judges are being "intimidated and not being allowed to work" can only be compared to "Pakistan and some African nations".

Incidentally, Congress leader and senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the petitioners, expressed gratitude at the CJI's decision to admit the Congress-JD(S) petition at the midnight hour and lauded the Supreme Court for ensuring that "justice never sleeps".

Singhvi's praise isn't uncalled for because the CJI has indeed shown grace and courteousness in admitting a plea which neither had a life depending on it (unlike the Yakub Memon case), nor was it a matter of grave national importance. Yeddyurappa's swearing-in will ultimately depend on his ability to prove the numbers on Karnataka Assembly floor, so the Congress' unseemly hurry to file a petition at that late hour amounts to little beyond scoring a political point. As it turns out, the three-judge bench of Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde and Ashok Bhushan eventually allowed the swearing-in to go through.

Rahul Gandhi

File image of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Twitter@INCIndia

As Shashadri Chari wrote in The Print, "It was extremely courteous of the CJI, whom the Congress had sought to impeach, to entertain the unusual, politically motivated demand by people whose legal, fundamental or democratic rights were not at risk or under challenge".

Not to put too fine a point on it, this is the same CJI whom Rahul wanted to impeach on flimsy grounds. When Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu rejected the notice, the Congress accused the Rajya Sabha Chairman of "muzzling the Constitution".

The party's social media team also chimed in, and alleged that CJI had "fixed benches".

Congress leader Kapil Sibal, in fact, filed a plea challenging Naidu's rejection of impeachment notice and withdrew it only when he realised that his efforts to shop for a "bench of his choice" won't materialise.

Thursday morning's developments — where the CJI went out of his way to accommodate a political petition — and Friday's observations by the three-judge bench are in keeping with the highest standards of competence, neutrality and upholding of justice that we expect from the apex court. The petulant and resentful behaviour of the Congress party and its president now lies exposed.

To take a look at the observations made by the Supreme Court on Friday, it seems as if BJP suffered a resounding defeat. The Supreme Court not only ordered a floor test by 4 pm on Saturday (which severely cripples BJP's chances of wooing JD(S) or Congress MLAs), it also directed the pro tem speaker to decide the mode of test, dismissed Attorney General KK Venugopal's plea for 'secret ballot', directed the BJP government not to nominate an Anglo-Indian representative and prevented Yeddyurappa from taking any major policy decisions in the interim.

Not just that, in admitting Yeddyurappa to take oath as chief minister (subject to proving majority), the SC also "made it clear that it would deal with the constitutionality of the governor's letter inviting Yeddyurappa to form the government later".

The Congress secured a legal victory on all key metrics of the petition through a bench constituted by the CJI in a case that is of existential importance for the party. The blinkered vision of Rahul is perhaps preventing him from noticing the judicial spine.

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Updated Date: May 24, 2018 13:54:31 IST

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