‘Warned in 2014 that they will use Judiciary to destabilise government’: Harish Salve slams Congress

Harish Salve, former Solicitor General of India and one of India’s most prominent lawyers who even has represented the country in the international court of law in Hague, has spoken about the current impeachment motion against the Chief Justice Of India Deepak Mishra in a discussion with Arnab Goswami on the Republic TV yesterday. In the discussion, he asserted the necessity of the sanctity of the judiciary to be maintained and slammed Congress and politically motivated lawyers for trying to vilify the constitutional institution.

Arnab’s first question to Salve was, with so many allegations on the CJI being a bench-fixer without an iota of proof where is it all going.

To which Harish Salve replied that he had given an interview 3 days earlier and told that this is all a deja-vu of 1973 when after the Keshavananda Bharti judgement, Mrs Indira Gandhi succeededed 3 of the senior most judges in the Supreme Court. Mr Palkhiwala had written a book called “Judiciary Made to Measure”. The Congress has now gone from cutting and adjusting to the level of scandalising the judiciary.

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Mr Salve went ahead to state that as far as the Prasad medical college case is concerned, Justice Deepak Mishra was not the CJI at that time, even before that he used to hear the roster of medical colleges cases. The Congress, like always have got their facts in a tangle. The Aadhar case is heard by a bench of 5 judges and by tradition the CJI always presides over a bench of 5 judges. The land acquisition cases first went to Justice Arun Mishra, then to Justice Lokor and then finally it went to the CJI because again it was being heard by a bench of 5 judges and the CJI presides over it.

Salve also added that he thinks the time has come when firm action under the Contempt of Court Act has to be taken and people have to be sent to jail.

Arnab stated further that it is unprecedented and going by the kind of stand the advocates and the MPs are taking, tomorrow even a journalist, an affected party, an advocate or basically anyone can say the bench was fixed whenever a case verdict goes against their interests. The allegations are obviously a  case of Contemp of court, but there seems to be no fear and respect for the judiciary.

To this Harish Salve replied, “I believe it is with great hesitation that the court declined to initiate Contemp of Court in the Loya case, and I personally think it was a mistake. I was deeply upset in the Loya case and have said things I never say in court. I said we are standing on hallowed ground where giants like Mr Palkhiwala, Lal Narayan Sinha etc have stood and to see the level the language used in court has descended to is deeply hurting. Time has come to send people to jail for speaking such nonsense. What if the common man starts believing that the judiciary can be disregarded and they can get away, we might as well wind up the constitutional courts, who is going to respect an institution that can be vilified like this by a party without any consequences.”

Arnab further asked to salve that he has heard that the Bar Council of India is planning to hold a meeting to assertain what action might be taken against lawyers who are practising in the SC and seeking impeachment without any facts at their disposal. He added that what is the accountability for lawyers like Kapil Sibal and Prashant Bhushan under the Contempt of Court act.

To it, Harish Salve replied, “I am very disappointed at the way the court proceedings have been going on over a period of time. We have seen a sharp decline in the level of court language. I was in Ayodhya case when Sibal threatened to walk out of the court. To this, the CJI replied, “very well as senior counsel u can leave but your advocate on the record has to go on because he cannot go out unless he is released by the court.” It is one thing to request that you are not prepared and your junior will carry on but to threaten like that is awful disrespect of the court. Such things have been building up for a long time. They get away with it because of their seniority and political position. Rajeev Dhavan says venomous things but he has the grace to apologise when he does. The judge wanted Kapil’s statement to be on record but Dhavan requested not to.”

Salve further added that in the Loya case the court has on the verdict that they were within an inch of initiating contempt of court. He stated the people behind the impeachment motion need to realise that the SC is a constitutuional institution whose image and sanctity depends on public respect and who will respect the court when anybody can make allegations against it and get away. He added that can we blame a poor man tomorrow when he alleges the judge of bribery after he loses a case and if we can not pull up a senior political functionary how can we pull up a common litigant.

Arnab stated that the people are sharing their reactions over the matter and they are appalled and furious at the level of disrespect being thrown. He added whether should the allegations, which are practically in every case the CJI has heard so far, be withdrawn and an apology be issued.

Mr Salve disagreed on the issue. He stated that an apology comes when we say or write something and then regret it but when their intent is to be malign the sorry has no value. He added that that intent to malign has to be punished.

Arnab further asked Harish Salve that the impeachment will not happen, then why is this attempt happening and is it for  Ayodhya or for the elections?

To this Salve replied, “It is happening because of frustration. I had shared with someone in the government in May 2014 that they should be careful, I expected that those who are given to running PILs completely off the rails might try to act against them. I warned them not to use the court to govern even with the firm majority they have. Now that the Congress is reduced to 44 they might use the court to destabilise the government.

Salve discussed that the list of cases the Congress is alleging the CJI to have bench-fixed is merely a catalogue of cases where the potshots at the government had gone awry. He pointed out that they have not found a single case where they can claim a murder accused was wrongly let off or a poor man was deprived of his property and all the cases are just a catalogue of politically motivated PILs. He added that it is their way of saying that we don’t want these judges because they are not listening to us.

It is notable here that the impeachment motion notice brought in Rajya Sabha was rejected by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu yesterday and the Congress has stated that it will move to Supreme Court on the issue.

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