THE CONGRESS is contemplating submitting a petition to the Rajya Sabha Chairman for initiating impeachment process of Justice Hemant Gupta, the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court, whose role had been under the scanner in a money laundering investigation by the Enforcement Directorate. Sources said some top Congress leaders held a meeting with representatives of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR), which had in March written to the Supreme Court collegium, seeking an in-house inquiry against Justice Gupta over cases of alleged disproportionate assets and misbehaviour against him.
The immediate trigger for the Congress move, however, is the case involving Narottam Mishra, the Madhya Pradesh minister who was disqualified by the Election Commission last month for submitting incorrect account of expenses and alleged corrupt practice like “paid news’’ during the 2008 assembly elections. The ruling also bars Mishra, a trusted aide of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, from contesting elections for three years.
Sources said Mishra had filed a petition in the Gwalior Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court challenging his disqualification. The petition was to come up for hearing on July 5, but the lawyers of Mishra and Rajendra Bharti, the Congress leader who had sought his disqualification, could not be present on that day because of a lawyers’ strike. While the court posted the matter for hearing on July 10, Congress leaders were surprised to see a PIL filed before the principal bench of the High Court in Jabalpur demanding that the Assembly seat held by Mishra be declared vacant. The PIL was filed before a division bench headed by Chief Justice Gupta on July 5 for an urgent hearing. It was accepted and the matter was heard the next day.
Congress leaders said Mishra’s lawyer appeared before the Jabalpur court on July 6 although no notice had been issued to him. He also filed a petition seeking transfer of the matter pending before the Gwalior bench to Jabalpur. The division bench headed by Justice Gupta issued notices to Mishra and Bharti and posted the matter for July 11. Congress leaders said the court also decided to transfer the matter to Jabalpur on the same day and informed complainant Bharti through the office of Registrar General within hours.
Sources in the Congress said the party is peeved at the transfer of the case and the admission of the PIL. Party leaders said they are in possession of “some material” which goes against fair play and justice in this case. Sources said a resolution seeking judicial removal is being drafted under Article 217(1)(b) of the Constitution of India.
As per the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968, a complaint against a judge has to be made through a resolution either by 100 members of the Lok Sabha or 50 Rajya Sabha members. After the MPs submit the motion, the presiding officer constitutes a three-member committee comprising two judges and a jurist to probe the complaint and determine if it is a case fit for initiating the impeachment process.