Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu Monday rejected a notice by seven Opposition parties led by the Congress seeking the impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. Naidu, also the Rajya Sabha Chairman, had consulted legal experts over the weekend following the notice issued by the Opposition members. Naidu rejected the notice saying it lacked ‘substantial merit’. The order comes minutes before the Supreme Court convenes for the day.
“I have considered each of the allegations individually as well as collectively in the light of annexures annexed to the notice to the motion but also in the light of cogent, relevant material available in the form of judicial orders passed by the apex court of the country. Based on all this, I have come to conclusion that this motion does not deserve to be admitted,” Naidu said in his order. LIVE UPDATES
The Rajya Sabha chairman further stated that the allegations made in the notice have a tendency to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
“Going through the five allegations mentioned in the notice, I am of the view that they are neither tenable nor admissible. The allegations emerging from the present case have a serious tendency of undermining the independence of judiciary which is the basic tenet of the Constitution of India. Considering the totality of facts, I am of the firm opinion that it is neither legal nor desirable or proper to admit the Notice of Motion on any one of these grounds,” Naidu stated in his order.
Seven opposition parties, led by the Congress, had sought the impeachment of CJI Dipak Misra accusing him of corruption, misusing his authority and failing to protect the independence of the judiciary. Leaders of the seven parties met with Vice-President Naidu last week and handed over a notice bearing signatures of 64 MPs and seven former MPs, who recently retired. Trinamool Congress and the DMK were not part of the move.
Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan questioned how Naidu could reject the notice if it met the requirements of 50 signatures. “What!! VP Naidu rejects impeachment motion against CJI signed by 64 RS MPs! On what grounds? He has no power to say that charges are not made out. That’s for the inquiry committee of 3 judges. He only has to see if it’s signed by >50 MPs & possibly if charges are of misbehaviour,” Bhushan tweeted.
Naidu had cut short his Telangana visit and returned to the national capital Sunday, following which he began consultations with experts.
The Rajya Sabha Chairman is learnt to have spoken to Attorney General K K Venugopal, former Supreme Court judge Justice B Sudershan Reddy, former attorney general K Parasaran, former secretary general of Rajya Sabha V K Agnihotri, former secretary general of Lok Sabha Subhash Kashyap, former law secretary P K Malhotra, former legislative secretary Sanjay Singh and senior officials of the Rajya Sabha secretariat.
Several constitution experts, including former CJIs, speaking to The Indian Express, expressed apprehension at the unprecedented move by a section of Opposition parties, saying it was a sad day for Indian judiciary.
Senior jurist Fali Nariman said it was ‘a horribly black day in the history of the Supreme Court’, adding that the move not only diminishes the public’s faith in the judiciary, but could well open the door for the ruling party to move against a judge if it doesn’t like a particular judgment. The move by the Opposition is “to bring the Supreme Court, which is on the ground floor, to the basement. It is hopeless, hopeless.”
Former CJI K G Balakrishnan pointed out that charges of misbehaviour were not enough to seek removal of a judge, but it has to be “proved misbehaviour”. “It’s not easy to establish. In India, we do not have any precedent on the depth of evidence required to establish what is proved misbehaviour,” said Balakrishnan who had recommended impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court. “I’m only bothered about the institution and deeply pained by the developments. It is very disturbing for anyone who has been or is associated with the judiciary”.
Justice R M Lodha, who retired as CJI in September 2014 termed it a “sad day”. He said the developments were “unprecedented and extremely sad” and hoped that “such a situation never comes again”.
While the Congress took lead in moving for the impeachment of the CJI, a section of the party’s senior leadership were not in favour of the move. Two former law ministers – Salman Khurshid and Ashwani Kumar – questioned the move and the motive behind the notice. Khurshid said he was not consulted by the party. “I feel very saddened that this has happened… I can’t see any straight forward resolution but I just hope there is no lasting damage to our institutions.”
Ashwani Kumar said the move will be “counter-productive” arguing that “the remedy cannot be worse than the malaise.”
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not sign the motion. When asked why, Kapil Sibal said, “We did not want to involve Dr Singh, he being a former PM.”
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley termed the move as a ‘revenge petition’. In a Facebook post, the BJP leader said:
“It is a revenge petition after the falsehood of the Congress Party has been established in the Justice Loya death case.” “It is an attempt to intimidate a Judge and send a message to other Judges, that if you don’t agree with us, fifty MPs are enough for a revenge action.
“The charges read out are issues those which have been settled by judicial orders or by precedent. Some issues are stale, trivial and have nothing to do with judicial functions.”