'Can't impeach Chief Justice of India': Venkaiah Naidu rejects Congress motion against Dipak Misra, says charges not sufficient

The Congress, along with seven other Opposition parties, were handed a huge embarrassment after Rajya Sabha chairman and Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu rejected the impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The motion was rejected on grounds that the charges were not sufficient for impeachment, sources were quoted as saying by media reports.

Naidu rejected the motion citing lack of substantial merit in it, sources said. Naidu held extensive consultations with top legal and constitutional experts before taking the decision, they said. According to sources, Naidu held deliberations with a number of constitutional and legal experts, including Attorney General K K Venugopal.

The rejection of the notice comes a day after he held the consultations with such experts to determine the maintainability of the motion. The sources said Naidu met several experts after he re-scheduled his travel plans considering the seriousness of the matter.

According to News18, Naidu also spoke to Subhash Kashyap, former secretary general of the Lok Sabha, PK Malhotra, former law secretary, Sanjay Singh, former legislative secretary and senior officials of the Rajya Sabha secretariat. He is also likely to meet former Supreme Court judge Sudarshan Reddy, sources said.

The Vice-President had cut short his visit to Hyderabad and returned to New Delhi to set in motion the process of consultations after an impeachment notice was filed against the CJI. Speaking to News18, sources said that Naidu continued with the discussions till late in the evening on Sunday and also spoke to K Parasaran, who was the attorney general during the Congress governments led by Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi and was also a member to the Upper House nominated by the party.

File image of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. PTI

File image of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. PTI

Subhash Kashyap, who was consulted by the Vice President, said that he feels the notice should be rejected out rightly.

"It's a completely politically motivated motion. I think the Rajya Sabha Chairman (Naidu) should outright reject it. This is a completely politically motivated motion aimed at lowering the prestige of judiciary. Secondly, there is nothing like impeachment for judges. That is only for the president. The judge can only be removed on the ground of proven misbehavior or incapacity. But even then the Chairman should not entertain it," he told News18.

Meanwhile, the Congress on Sunday hit out at the BJP for "defending" CJI Misra and said the latter should consider recusing himself from judicial and administrative work till he was cleared of the charge of "misbehaviour". "If his (CJI) own conduct is under a cloud, should he not consider recusing himself from performing judicial and administrative duties and submit himself to an inquiry so that the high office and his individual integrity are cleared or the process of law is followed in an appropriate manner," Congress Spokesperson Rajdeep Surjewala told a press conference here.

"... the highest (law) officer of the country, an officer who is head of India's judiciary, an officer who heads the final temple of justice, an officer to whom people go to seek justice... Caesar's wife must be above suspicion. And that's why we have left it to his (CJI) conscience," he added.

"This will ensure that the process of law is followed in an appropriate manner." In an unprecedented move, 64 members of the Rajya Sabha belonging to seven parties led by the Congress on Friday submitted an impeachment motion for the removal of the Chief Justice on five grounds of "misbehaviour".

Surjewala's remarks came in the wake of media reports that the CJI had decided not to recuse himself from administrative and judicial work in the Supreme Court.

Hitting out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Surjewala said the ruling party was compromising the position and office of the Chief Justice as a neutral arbitrator and head of the judiciary and the ruling party was doing a great disservice to the independence of the Indian judicial system.

"Does the CJI belong to a political party, ruling or otherwise? Does the CJI have to be defended by political parties or Ministers in the government? Is it not a disservice to the CJI office? They are compromising the position and office of the CJI," Surjewala said. He said that Chief Justice Misra must tell the BJP not to politicise his high office and not to politicise the impeachment motion.

Vivek Tankha, Chairman of the Congress' Legal Department, said: "He is the Chief Justice of India. He should voluntarily submit to any probe. He should regain public faith. Till then, he should think whether he should work as a Judge or not." He maintained that the impeachment motion was not meant to insult or lower his dignity but to take the allegation against him to its logical conclusion.

Another Congress leader and Senior Advocate K.T.S. Tulsi said that the nature of charges against the CJI was so serious that an enquiry should be ordered at the earliest. "The enquiry will be able to protect the dignity of the office of the Chief Justice of India. If no enquiry is held, it will cause much greater damage to the Supreme Court prestige," Tulsi said.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Apr 23, 2018 11:11 AM

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