Congress leader and former Union Minister Ashwani Kumar has publicly broken with his party's decision to submit a petition to remove the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Mishra.
Kumar's expressed his objection to the impeachment motion, while refusing to pass any comment on the circumstances that led to it, namely the dismissal of the PIL seeking a special investigation into the death of judge of Judge BH Loya.
"The larger principle is that impeachment is the extreme remedy. And that too to against the Chief Justice of India, which is an unprecedented move. This move could have been avoided," said Kumar, a noted lawyer who served as Union Law Minister in the previous UPA government.
Kumar is not a Member of Parliament at present, and he said he would have defied his party even then. "If I would have been a Member of Parliament, and had I been given this paper to sign, I would not have signed the impeachment motion," Kumar told news agency ANI.
Kumar is not the only leader within the Congress ranks to express disagreement with the party's extreme move. Among the senior Congress leaders whose signatures were not on the petition for the removal of the Chief Justice of India were former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and former Union Ministers P Chidambaram and Salman Khurshid. Chidambaram and Khurshid are prominent lawyers.
Seven opposition parties came together to push the petition, which has so far been signed by 64 MPs. They submitted the petition to Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on Friday. The seven parties are the Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Samajwadi Party, CPM, Indian Union Muslim League and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, also a high-profile lawyer, write a Facebook post in which he termed the impeachment motion a 'revenge petition'.
The issue has divided any united face that the opposition parties have been trying to create since the Presidential election last year. The Trinamool Congress and DMK were among the parties, which are usually part of any opposition platform, that did not participate in the extreme step.
No judge in the history of the Republic of India has been removed, let alone the Chief Justice of India has been removed so far.
According to the Constitution of India, only the President can be impeached. For all other positions including the Chief Justice of India, the term used is not impeachment but is called the procedure for removal.