A petition by two Congress MPs challenging Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu’s decision to reject the impeachment notice against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra was “dismissed as withdrawn” by the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, counsel of the Congress MPs Partap Singh Bajwa and Amee Harshadyay Yajnik, said he was withdrawing the petition after the Constitution bench refused to give the petitioner details of the administrative order passed in constituting the bench.
Sibal, widely seen as the driving force behind the notice, sought a copy of the order alotting the case to the five-judge bench and argued that the CJI did not have power to allocate the matter to Constitution bench by an administrative order. He also said it was beyond the authority of the registrar concerned to list the matter directly before the five-judge bench. However, Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for Naidu, said the CJI had the power to do so.
The Constitution bench constituted to hear the CJI impeachment petition didn’t include the four senior-most judges of the apex court who had publicly aired in January their grievances over how CJI Misra was running the court and allocating cases. The five-judge bench, led by Justice AK Sikri, comprised Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, Arun Mishra and AK Goel.
The court asked Sibal to argue on merits of the petition, but the Congress leader was adamant that he would first see the order and decide if it should be challenged or not. As the bench also stood its ground, Sibal said he was withdrawing the plea.
Later in the day, advocate Prashant Bhushan filed an RTI seeking copy of the administrative order constituting a five-judge bench to hear the impeachment case against CJI.
On Monday, a two-judge bench comprising Justices Chelameswar and S Kaul asked the two Congress MPs to return on Tuesday with their petition challenging Naidu’s rejection of an opposition motion seeking the removal of the CJI. The petition contended that once a removal motion signed by MPs was submitted to the Rajya Sabha chairman, he had no option but to constitute an inquiry committee to look into the charges. However, the Justice Chelameswar referred to a Constitution Bench decision that said only the CJI had the authority to list cases before appropriate benches.
On April 24, Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu rejected the impeachment notice signed by 71 opposition MPs of the Upper House, seven of whom retired last month, against CJI Dipak Misra, citing the absence of any “proved misbehaviour” or “incapacity” on the part of the senior judge. He ruled in a 10-page order that the grounds were insufficient to admit the petition. Following the rejection of the impeachment motion, Sibal had termed Naidu’s order as “unprecedented, illegal, ill-advised and hasty” and asserted that the party would challenge it in the Supreme Court.