As the Budget session of Parliament was ending on April 6, several Opposition parties had second thoughts on moving an impeachment notice against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Rajya Sabha members withdrew their signatures on the draft impeachment notice. It meant the page with the signatures of the DMK MPs had to be removed, and other MPs who had signatures on that page had to put in theirs afresh.
MPs of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress refused to sign.
The Biju Janata Dal, the ruling party in Odisha, decided not to get involved in this.
Chief Justice Misra hails from Odisha.
Even the Congress rethought its decision, while the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party too had misgivings.
Some lawyers in the Congress argued against upsetting the judiciary, but there was an equally strong effort led by Kapil Sibal and Ghulam Nabi Azad to go ahead with the process.
Interestingly, it was a tongue lashing from Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar that spurred the Congress and other parties to go ahead with their move.
In recent months, Pawar has emerged as the guiding light of Opposition unity against the Narendra D Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party.
Left leaders, particularly Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, and the Congress’ Sibal and Azad had led the effort to convince Pawar and others. Yechury’s predecessor and rival, Prakash Karat, has opposed the move.
But once Pawar had been convinced and signed the impeachment motion along with his party’s other Rajya Sabha MPs, he was livid with the Congress party for getting cold feet.
According to an Opposition Rajya Sabha MP, Pawar told the Congress leadership how most MPs had signed the draft impeachment notice at grave risk to their reputations and careers.
Pawar voiced the sentiments of several MPs.
“Most of us represent smaller parties. Whatever the public perception, neither we nor our parties have the wherewithal to fight expensive court battles if cases were to be filed against us out of sheer vindictiveness for pursuing the impeachment motion,” an Opposition MP said.
This too was the reason why the DMK, Trinamool Congress, and some Congress MPs did not sign the impeachment notice.
The NCP chief asked the Congress leadership why their signatures, including those of the NCP MPs, were collected when it did not intend to pursue the impeachment motion to its logical conclusion.
All the NCP members, including Pawar, Praful Patel, Majeed Memon and Vandana Chavan, had signed the impeachment notice.
Most of the Congress leaders signed, with Azad being the first. Other prominent ones to sign were Sibal, A K Antony, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Ahmed Patel and Jairam Ramesh.
According to Congress leaders, former prime minister Manmohan Singh had not signed, but supported the move.
Dr Singh argued it did not behave a former PM to disrespect the office of the Chief Justice of India. Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram did not sign.
“We didn’t want a few others to be embarrassed as certain matters are pending,” Sibal said.
The BSP’s Satish Chandra Mishra, a senior lawyer, signed as did the Samajwadi Party leader in the Rajya Sabha, Ram Gopal Yadav.
A week ago, Opposition leaders sought time from Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu’s office, and had to specify the purpose of their visit.
According to sources, Ppposition leaders were surprised to find the next day that the chairman would be on a visit to Assam and other north eastern states for the better part of the week.
On Thursday afternoon, the chairman’s office confirmed a time for Opposition leaders to meet Naidu on Friday afternoon.
Earlier on Thursday, a Supreme Court Bench, headed by the CJI, dismissed petitions seeking a probe into the alleged mysterious death of special Central Bureau of Investigation judge B H Loya.