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“Sir, the judges are here”, informed Kiran. “Okay, give us a couple of minutes, I’ll let you know when to send them”, responded Ramalingam, as he perused one of the files brought in by Varun. As Kiran left the room, Ramalingam told Varun, without looking away from the files, “I think Manohar and Desai will budge, but Panicker might put up some resistance.” “Let’s try our best”, responded Varun, “are you going to tell them about contesting?” “Yes, that will certainly come up”, said Ramalingam as he sipped on his coffee and stubbed his cigarette. Varun was pondering while looking outside the window. After finishing the file, Ramalingam picked up the phone and informed Kiran to send the judges in.

“To what do we owe this pleasure, Mr. President?” asked Manohar as he walked into the chambers, followed by Panicker and Desai. “To discuss some important matters pertaining to the Court, Mano”, said Ramalingam as he stood up to shake his hand. “Please, sit down” said Ramalingam as he also shook Desai and Panicker’s hands. “Let’s cut to the chase, the cabinet is thinking of appointing you as the next chief justice, Mano, and I support it” said Ramalingam, in a determined voice. The three judges looked at each other, taken aback. For a few seconds the room was still, filled with an awkward silence, with only the chirps of the birds outside.

Panicker was the first to speak, still with a surprised expression on his face, “Ram, are you serious?” “Come on Panicker, you know Thakur is not the best fit for the position”, responded Ramalingam, to be interjected by Manohar immediately, “but you can’t supersede, Ram. Your government has just passed a major constitutional amendment, this will be very inappropriate and belittle any appearance of judicial independence, especially given that Thakur’s views on the amendment is not really a secret.” Desai adjusted his spectacles, and spoke in his slow, high-pitched tone, “also Ram, according to 62, the presidential elections should be held within six months. You still have one and a half years in your tenure as Chief Justice. Do you not plan to return to office?” Ramalingam quickly glanced at Varun before responding to Desai, “I plan on contesting. I will hand in my resignation as Chief Justice next week.” “Okay, that is your choice Ram, but I still don’t think superseding will reflect well at all!” said Panicker, with a force not untypical of him. Manohar leaned forward in his chair, with a worried expression, “I have to agree, Ram. This will not just raise serious doubts about your government, but it will also rip off all credibility in the institution. You do know how the bar and the bench reacted to Ray and Beg. I don’t want to be in that position”. Ramalingam looked unfazed, and without any sign of exasperation on his face, he began to explain his position. “We have all spoken about how much Thakur is resistant to the new vision. Even in our meetings, you have seen how unamenable he is when it comes to establishing a new form of state. Not only do we all agree that this is the best path to move ahead in, but even you know that a strong judiciary is required to make this vision last. Come on, Mano, don’t you believe in what we are doing here? And Desai? Panicker? Both of you have on numerous occasions agreed with me on this, at least on principle. Can we allow any risks, especially at this stage? You know how hard it has been to get here.” “Ram, but this is all progressing very quickly, and will raise a lot of speculation. Two presidents have died, and conspiracy theories on that are continuing unabated, a major constitutional amendment has been passed, and now a supersession? We will embarrass ourselves even globally!” said Panicker, clearly unsatisfied with Ramalingam’s explanation. “Sir, I don’t think we need to worry about global reaction” intervened Varun, “even the US has understood the importance of religion for the state. You have seen how their constitutional law changed after Dobbs, and there was some initial hullabaloo, but look how they managed to change. I think the world is finally understanding that religion and state are inseparable, and even spiritually necessary. As far as the latter is concerned, we will be leading by example with the changes we are making. Clearly there is a reason for the Holy Roman Empire to have been much more successful than the Roman Empire.” “Yes, I agree Varun, but look at the timing” came Panicker’s response. “There is no better time for this, Panicker”, said Ramalingam, “we have made just the first step. If we don’t progress now, it might never happen. And to be honest with you, after all the effort that has gone into it, I am not ready to see the amendment stricken down.”

“Okay, Ram, I understand your passion, but give it a month. You anyway have some time in this office still, so if you want to do this, let it happen after some time”, said Manohar, in a defeated tone. “Yes, that’s a good idea. If this has to be done, let there be some space for things to settle down a bit” chimed Desai. Ramalingam nodded and turned to Panicker, who was shaking his head, as he sighed, unable to agree with his colleagues. “I understand your consternation, Panicker”, said Ramalingam, “you have always been the one to seriously think about important issues, I have always admired that. But I ask you to trust me on this. You and I don’t share different visions, we both agree that this path is required. Trust my word when I tell you that everything I am doing is only to see its fulfilment.” Panicker gazed at Ramalingam, almost as if reading his face for clues on his sincerity. “Ok Ram, but if we going to do this….” the telephone rang, interrupting Panicker. Ramalingam picked it up. It was Sashikala on the other side. “Yes Sashi?” said Ramalingam, “WHAT?? Okay.” He kept the receiver down, and his face was panic-stricken. “Varun, turn on the tv”, he said as he lit a cigarette, “Thakur has gone to the press, he is giving an interview now.” “What?” squeaked Desai, in disbelief. Everyone stood up and hurriedly walked to the other side of the room. Varun quickly reached for the remote and turned the television on. As soon as he turned the news channel on, they saw Thakur speaking from a podium, looking down on what appeared to be a written statement. Below it, a headline blared: “CHIEF JUSTICE ACCUSES PRESIDENT OF PLANNING A SUPERSESSION!”
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