By Amulya Ganguli
The revolt of the four senior Supreme Court judges, which targets the chief justice, DipakMisra, has been a bolt from the blue for the BJP. The political scene has darkened even further for the party with the possibility of not faring too well in the Assembly elections being compounded by damaging revelations from the forthcoming inquiries into Justice BHLoya’s death.
The 48-year-old CBI special court judge allegedly “died of a heart attack” at a time when he was engaged in investigating the killing in a fake encounter of a suspect, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, a case in which Amit Shah has been directly accused. Shortly after the judge’s death, the BJP president was acquitted.
Now, the BJP may well feel that Amit Shah’s reprieve is not permanent. The reason is that the handling of the Loya case by Justice DipakMisra is one of the issues which made the four rebellious judges come to the conclusion that the chief justice was not playing fair. Hence, their complaint about the “selective” assignment of cases which can have “far-reaching consequences” to particular judges.
Notwithstanding appeals by the BJP, among others, for not politicizing the “mutiny”, this is exactly what is happening if only because politics, like cricket, is the country’s abiding passion. Not unexpectedly, the polarization between the BJP and the Congress is very much in evidence.
It all began with Rahul Gandhi holding a brief press meet within hours of the judges’ press conference to call for a high-level inquiry into Justice Loya’s death. While the BJP, on its part, sought to keep aloof and maintain that the matter should be resolved internally, the party’s cyber warriors lost no time to jump into the fray to accuse the Left-Liberal-Congress “ecosystem” of targeting the chief justice.
That the BJP is not too happy with the way the scene is developing is evident from the call by the BJP stalwart, Ram Madhav, for the observance of “discipline” by everyone from school children to Supreme Court judges. Ram Madhav is on lien from the RSS to the party.
Ever ready to wade into choppy waters, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has come out in support of the four dissenting judges and warned against making the judiciary “deaf and dumb”.
Although there are a number of other allegations against Justice Misra, including irregularities involving medical colleges, it is the Loya case which is bound to remain in the spotlight because it is undoubtedly a political time bomb. It goes without saying that the issue will be highlighted during the election campaigns in Karnataka and elsewhere in the coming months.
Even if the BJP tries to ignore the subject, Narendra Modi cannot but be perturbed about the undermining of Amit Shah’s position by the reopening of the case involving him which the party had thought had been closed with his acquittal by Justice Loya’s successor in the CBI court.
Given the perception about the BJP chief as the second most powerful man in the country, and the fact that he fine-tunes the party’s election machinery, any diminution of his prestige and, therefore, of his political and organizational clout because of what happened in Gujarat more than a decade ago will mean a worrying time for the prime minister.
The BJP’s usual tactic to get out of a difficult situation is to label its adversaries as anti-nationals. While its myriad trolls are already doing so in the social media, the party itself has to tread carefully since the judiciary is involved. Moreover, the Supreme Court is held in particularly high esteem by the people at large, for many of whom it represents the last hope of protection against political and bureaucratic arbitrariness.
The party, therefore, cannot but give the impression that it expects the apex court to amicably resolve its internal problems, not least because the Supreme Court had earlier bailed it out on two occasions by saying that Hindutva is a “way of life”, which the saffron brigade invariably uses to silence its detractors, and by giving Modi a clean chit in a Gujarat riots case even though the court had earlier called him a “modern-day Nero”.
At the same time, the BJP’s opponents cannot afford to be seen to be too elated about how the rift in the highest court in the land will damage the ruling party at the centre even if the judges’ charges about democracy being in peril echo similar fears expressed some time ago by groups of retired bureaucrats and army personnel.
Even as the judges and lawyers try to soothe tempers, the political implications of the unprecedented standoff among the judges will continue to rumble like a menacing thunder cloud in the foreseeable future. What will worry the average citizen is whether the apex court will be able to emerge from the turmoil with its honour intact. (IPA Service)