The move by Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to write a letter to Chief Justice of India Sharad Arvind Bobde, with a “sense of pain and anguish” at the “politicisation of institutions”, monitored by N. Chandrababu Naidu, “through honourable sitting judges of Supreme Court”, is unprecedented in India’s history. True, there have been confrontations between politics and the judiciary, between Parliament and other legislative bodies over the division of powers. There were times that the judiciary was accused of “judicial overreach” and “legislating in disguise” in the course of interpreting legislation and executive orders. The relationship between judiciary and political pillars of the legislature and executive is complex, but there is little doubt, even factoring in the impeachment powers of Parliament, that the judiciary is independent and supreme in interpretation of the Constitution and legal matters.
Equally important, as much as the powers of judiciary are supreme, the dignity, honour and majesty of the courts are sacrosanct too. Indian history records that whenever Indian politics was set to compromise with the values of democracy or unhesitant to trample on the rights of citizens or let down the foundational values of our republic, it was the judiciary that time and again has saved our nation. The Indian judiciary is not just one of the four pillars of the modern Indian nation or democracy -- it has also been the exemplar of the highest standards, ethical conduct and has served as a role model for the other three. Like Caesar’s wife, it stands even above suspicion or a shade of doubt, and must continue to do so.
The political rivalry between YSRC chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy and his arch-rival Telugu Desam chief N. Chandrababu Naidu is irrelevant here; it is best decided every five years in the people’s court. But when a chief minister, or even an ordinary citizen, raises issues, casts aspersions or makes allegations against a sitting Supreme Court judge, the onus shifts to the nation's highest court and the CJI to ensure that every citizen of this country is assured that there is no need to worry about the serious allegations by ensuring transparency, fearless introspection and ensuring fairness.
One cannot completely dismiss the views of Mr Reddy’s rivals that this could be an arm-twisting tactic at a time when serious cases of financial wrongdoing are pending in the courts, including a matter on fast-tracking such hearings, in which, if found guilty and sentenced, the young CM could face disqualification from holding office and contesting elections for a considerable time.
The court will have to undertake this testing ordeal of not getting arm-twisted into weakening its resolve to rid India of political corruption but also simultaneously stand above any shred of doubt that no one in the judiciary, much less so, someone in the highest court, is possibly guilty of allegations of extra-constitutional judicial intervention at the behest of any political leader. Given its track record and the Indian people’s overriding trust and unshakable faith in the courts, one expects this is exactly what the CJI would ensure happens. Hail the judiciary!