Principles of ‘Causality’ emanating from the universal laws of ‘Cause and Effect’ apply to the unprecedented and looming impeachment motion against the current Chief Justice of India. Classical science believes no event happens by chance. Causality, as defined, is what connects one process (the cause) with another process (the effect), where the first is responsible for the second, and the second is dependent on the first, thereby establishing a direct nexus between cause and effect. Philosophy on the other hand made a distinction between a cause that produces something new and one that produces a change to the existing. Contrastingly, proponents of the ‘Uncertainty Principle’ believe that nothing in this universe is attributable with precision to one single cause to result in an eventual effect, since there are multiple other external factors acting in tandem to culminate in that effect. Let’s explore how each of these are applicable to the proposed impeachment process.
Much ink has been spilt on the causes which led opposition parties to consider moving the present impeachment motion and this article will not go into the merits or de-merits of the motion. What is being analysed here are the ‘effects’ that the proposed impeachment motion are likely to have. As things stand today, once the impeachment motion is filed, the Speaker of the house will have to form a prima-facie opinion, upon review of the material accompanying the motion, whether to even commence an inquiry. Assuming the opposition is able to push through the initial inquiry, though in all likelihood a tough proposition, the opposition just doesn’t have the political numbers to attain the majority required to see the impeachment through. That may well explain the delay in filing despite the reported requisite signatures having been obtained.
Therefore, one can only surmise that the motion is perhaps only an attempt to subject the sitting Chief Justice to the inquiry process, should one get initiated, where difficult questions may be put to him leading to some amount of public humiliation. Historically no impeachment motion has gone through as, in most instances, the Judge has chosen to resign out of imbroglio.
Applying the theory of cause and effect, the effect of such actions will be to bring down the majesty of Court and the judiciary as a whole. Also given that the current motion is likely to fail, primarily for political reasons, will it not lead to political lines being drawn in relation to the judiciary? Further, and while one is by no means proposing that where there is overwhelming evidence the Constitutionally proposed process of removal should not be followed, is the evidence in the current motion overwhelming enough to subject the judiciary to likely political pressures and thereby compromise the independence of the judiciary, which is itself one of the allegations against the present Chief Justice?
The call for a fearless judiciary is undebatable. Are not impeachment motions like the present tactics of intimidation, likely to have the effect of instilling fear, rather than dispelling it? At a time when our Constitution is already under threat and democracy is at the precipice of uncertainty, do not such acts work with other external factors to further jeopardise and put all the democratic institutions at stake? Given the multiple attempts made in recent times to tinker with our Constitutional scheme, and attempts made to re-write the Preamble which encapsulates the spirit of our Constitution, a leading jurist rightly stated, “we are in a period of violation of Constitutional ideals.” In such circumstances, we need to keep in check all forces outside of the Judiciary which have the effect of shaking the foundation of the rule of law in India and leading to an eventual collapse of Constitutional functioning!
In contrast, some positive effect is also likely to emerge from the current motion which should hopefully spring into motion judicial consciousness. Post the unprecedented press conference of senior Judges of the Supreme Court in January, there was definitely a need for course correction within the higher Judiciary. At that time, it was stated that “democracy was in danger” and one had advocated that the changes required must come from within. It is unfortunate that such change didn’t happen. Even the Roster system, introduced post the January face-off, didn’t do much to address the actual issues highlighted. Hence, while unfortunate that it has come to this, one hopes that the current circumstances will finally act as the much needed catalyst for change. As an eternal optimist, one hopes the current impeachment process will reignite the sentience among stakeholders to make sure that there is not even the remote perception of the Judiciary treading at the whims of political masters.
In conclusion, now more than ever in recent past is there a need to have an independent, fearless, robust, united, self-controlled, and progressive Judiciary which can speak truth to power. In the words of Nani Palkhivala, which, incidentally, were delivered in 1982 and hold true today after 36 years, “an independent judiciary is the very heart of a republic. The foundation of a democracy, the source of its perennial vitality, the condition for its growth, and the hope for its welfare – all lie in that great institution, an independent judiciary.” Any attempt to curtail the independence of the judiciary need to be met with strong resistance. It is not a choice; but a compelling necessity!
*Satvik Varma is a litigation counsel and corporate attorney based in New Delhi. He recently published a book titled, “Yes, I’m Opinionated.”