For the first time since the British left and India became a free country, its judicial system is being questioned, with opposition and civil society groups accusing the pro-Hindu ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of using the judiciary for its own political purposes.
On April 21, seven opposition parties led by Congress met Vice-President Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu and handed him a notice to impeach Chief Justice Dipak Misra, accusing him of misbehavior and abuse of authority.
“We have mentioned in our notice how the chief justice is choosing to send sensitive matters to particular benches by misusing his authority as master of the roster with the likely intent to influence the outcome,” Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters in New Delhi.
Rights activist Ravi Nair says the judiciary is facing a serious threat. “Never in the past has it been tested on its loyalty to the Indian constitution and its adherence to due process of law as it is being done now,” said the executive director of the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre.
Rights groups and opposition politicians claim the ruling BJP, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, influences courts for favorable judgments in cases where BJP members and Hindu groups are accused.
Nair said in several cases where Hindus were accused of cow-related lynchings of Muslims “courts have failed to prosecute the killers speedily.”
Violence linked with cows, a revered animal in Hinduism, has claimed at least 25 lives since 2010, and 21 of them were Muslims, according to a recent report by IndiaSpend, a data website. Most were based on rumors of them transporting or storing beef.
Judges trigger crisis
The crisis in the judiciary intensified in January when four senior Supreme Court judges went public to accuse the chief justice of partisan conduct.
The immediate trigger for the rebellion was a case related to the death of B.H. Loya, a Mumbai-based judge who reportedly died of a heart attack in 2