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Panellists feel that allegations should have been leveled by Congress against CJI only if it had proof

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal on Tuesday withdrew the petition challenging vice-president and Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah’s Naidu decision to reject the notice of removal motion against CJI Dipak Misra from the Supreme Court. APN’s popular debate Mudda took up the issue. Anchorperson Himanshu Dixit posed the questions to panelist including Congress’s Ajay Verma, BJP’s Ashok Thakur, Supreme Court senior advocates Pradeep Rai and MC Dhingra, India Legal Editor Inderjit Badhwar and APN consultant Govind Pant Raju.

Verma said: “Congress is a way of thinking, of belief, of high ideals. Kapil Sibal is an accomplished lawyer.  Somewhere, something is wrong, and discussion on this is needed. The vice-president’s decision to reject the impeachment motion was one-sided. It is the job of the opposition to ensure that democracy is not derailed.”

Rai said:” The impeachment law states that charges should be proven. One should not proceed on assumption. The vice-president’s decision was well within the framework of the Constitution. Sibal kept on harping that CJI has no roster power. The fact is that verdict on roster master is yet to come. Sibal told me that his main purpose was to expose the judges, which is why he did not argue the case. I firmly believe that charges should be levelled only if there is proof. “

Dhingra said:” Sibal had nothing to argue. Why should questions be raised on the bench? This is like pre-judging the judges. CJI constituted the bench, leaving out those who held the press conference, what more does Sibal want? How can he himself choose the bench? This is outlandish. A judge is a judge, and you can be heard by any judge. “

Badhwar said: “The Supreme Court has become a political football. Sibal is seeking a double-edged sword, and wants to keep CJI under pressure. Sibal is both a politician and lawyer. Sibal is now virtually asking the constitution bench to recuse itself.”

Rai said : “Accountability is required, but you can’t level charges on hearsay.”

Thakur said: “Congress is playing a dangerous game. It had done so in 1977 as well. This time it is attacking the Supreme Court. What do Sibal and Congress want? What I understand is that they want to drag just four judges in, again and again. All judges are worthless except those four? Congress wants to keep pressure on judges.”

Raju said: “Democracy entails freedom of expression for all, but no one should fault the system on flimsy grounds. Sibal should not be making loose statements. After all, Supreme Court is the highest platform of justice in the country, and that faith should not be broken among people. Congress stands thoroughly exposed.”

Verma said: “When does democracy mean throttling freedom of expression, freedom to criticize someone? Both sides have to be heard in any case. Similar is the case with the impeachment motion. We knew that the BJP will try its best to throttle justice, but we are determined to fight, and will not allow dictatorship.”

Thakur said: “Congress leaders are losing their mind.”

Rai said:”Let’s avoid making loose remarks. I am saying the same thing, if you have proof, then fight the case. Roster issue plea was filed by advocate Shanti Bhushan, but there are allegations that he does bench shopping. Why he hasn’t challenged that?  Constitution bench is set up in matters related to the constitution. If there were only three judges in the bench, allegations would have been levelled that the bench is too small. It was right to appoint a five-judge bench for this purpose. “

Advocate Dhingra said: “The Supreme Court’s image should not be allowed to be damaged. Sibal is trying to cut the branch of the tree on which he is standing. The Supreme Court image has definitely been dented by the shenanigans of these politicians.”

Badhwar said:”Where there is smoke, there is fire. Of course, the Supreme Court has become a political football. But when your house gets weak, cracks appear. When judiciary is united, like when KK Venugopal was openly scoffed, and in standing up for Gopal Subramanium and KP Shah case…but at times doubts have been created on senior judges. We support an independent judiciary, but that does not mean that we cannot be critical.”

Raju said: “The Congress’s intention seems to be simply to throw dirt on the Supreme Court. But there is a system to throw allegations, there should be sufficient proofs, not just simple mudslinging.”

Thakur said: “Even those advocates who held the famous press conference are somewhere responsible for denting the apex court image.”

Verma said: “I agree with Badhwar that there is no smoke without fire. Congress has no personal axe to grind. 50 MPs have signed. It is the duty of the Congress as an opposition party to raise issues when it smells a rat.”

Rai said:” Collegium judges should have found out avenues for talk before washing dirty linen in public. The judges have to lead by setting example themselves.”

—Compiled by Niti Singh Bhandari

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