In a first, opposition parties give notice for impeachment of CJI
New Delhi, Apr 20 : In an unprecedented step, seven opposition parties led by the Congress today moved a notice for the impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, accusing him of “misbehaviour” and “misuse” of authority.
Levelling five allegations, leaders of the seven opposition parties met Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, who is also the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and handed over the notice of impeachment bearing signatures of 64 MPs and seven former MPs, who recently retired.
This is the first time that a notice of impeachment against a sitting CJI has been moved, even though there have been cases of impeachment motions against high court judges.
The notice for impeachment comes a day after the Supreme Court rejected a bunch of petitions seeking an independent investigation into the death of Judge B H Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.
“We wish this day had never come,” said senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal. He said the step has been taken “with a heavy heart” to protect the independence of the judiciary.
Sibal said the allegations against the CJI cannot be ignored and if the notice for the impeachment motion is accepted “then as per convention, he has to refrain from discharging his judicial functions”.
Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “We have moved a motion for removal of Chief Justice of India under five grounds of misbehaviour.
“We are very much sure that the chairman will take action. We expect positive action from the chairman.”
The MPs who signed the notice belong to the Congress, the NCP, the CPI-M, the CPI, the SP, the BSP and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). The leaders of these parties earlier met in Parliament and gave final shape to the notice for impeachment.
The Trinamool Congress and the DMK, besides the RJD and some other parties, have backed out from supporting the move.
Sibal, at a press conference, said the five allegations of “misbehaviour” mentioned in the impeachment notice include a “conspiracy to pay illegal gratification” in the Prasad Education Trust case and the denial of permission to proceed against a retired high court judge in the same matter.
He said the allegations also include the “serious charge” of “antedating” (backdating) of an order for listing of a petition related to the investigation against the Prasad Education Trust in the Supreme Court.
Another charge is of listing the petition against the Prasad Education Trust before himself, even when he was heading the Constitution bench, and doing so was against the convention.
The fourth charge pertains to a piece of land which Misra acquired as an advocate by giving a “false affidavit” and the plot was surrendered in 2012 when he was elevated to the Supreme Court, even though orders cancelling the allotment were given in 1985.
The fifth charge relates to “the abuse of exercise of power by the Chief Justice in 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”.
“As representatives of the people, we are entitled to hold the Chief Justice accountable, just as we are accountable to the people. The majesty of the law is more important than the majesty of any office,” Sibal said.
“We hope that a thorough enquiry will be held so that truth alone triumphs. Democracy can thrive only when our judiciary stands firm, independent of the executive, and discharges its constitutional functions honestly, fearlessly and with an even hand,” Sibal said.
Azad said the opposition parties had sought time a week ago from the Rajya Sabha chairman, but got an appointment today. He said, “We did not discuss the contents of the motion” during the 40-minute meeting with the chairman.
Asked why other opposition parties have not signed the notice, Sibal claimed that “there is consensus among all parties”. He also dismissed as false the suggestions that there was no consensus on the issue within the Congress.
On why former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not sign the motion, Sibal said, “We did not want to involve Dr Singh, he being a former PM.”
He said the move comes in the wake of charges levelled against the CJI by four Supreme Court judges in January this year, who raised concerns over the independence of the judiciary.
“We were hoping that the anguish of the judges as reflected in their statements to the press would be addressed by the Chief Justice and the Chief Justice in response would set his house in order. More than three months have passed. Nothing has changed,” Sibal said.
He said that when the judges of Supreme Court themselves believe that the judiciary’s independence is under threat and democracy in peril, alluding to the functioning of the office of the Chief Justice of India, “should the nation stand still and do nothing?”.
The Congress denied that the move was in any way linked to the Supreme Court decision in the death of judge B H Loya.
An impeachment motion in Rajya Sabha has to be supported by at least 50 MPs, while that in the Lok Sabha is to be supported by 100 MPs.
Once the notice for impeachment is submitted, the Rajya Sabha chairman will ascertain if there is merit or ground for moving such a motion or can reject it. He may form a committee to look into it, if he finds merit in it.
If the impeachment notice is rejected, the Congress is likely to move the Supreme Court against the decision of the chairman, party sources said.
SC terms public statements on impeachment of judges unfortunate
New Delhi, Apr 20 (PTI) The Supreme Court today termed as very unfortunate the public statements, including those made by lawmakers, on impeachment of judges.
“We are all very disturbed about it,” a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said after the counsel appearing for the petitioner raised the issue of politicians making public statements on impeachment of judges.
The apex court asked Attorney General K K Venugopal to assist it to deal with the plea, which has also sought a gag on the media from reporting such statements.
The development assumes significance as it comes on a day when the Congress and other opposition parties have decided to submit a notice to initiate impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The move comes a day after the SC ruling in the CBI Judge B H Loya case.
However, during today’s hearing, no reference of CJI was made during brief arguments.
The apex court, while asking the top law officer of the country to assist it in the matter, posted the case for hearing on May 7.
It, however, refused to pass any order gagging the media, saying it would not do this without hearing the Attorney General.