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Venkaiah Naidu rejects Congress' impeachment motion against CJI Dipak Misra: 5 reasons that explain the decision

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu has rejected the 'impeachment motion' against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra citing 'no proof of misconduct' by him as alleged by the opposition parties.

The Congress and six other opposition parties on Friday moved a notice for the impeachment of CJI, accusing him of five counts of "misbehaviour" and "misusing" authority. The charges against the CJI included taking a bribe, illegally acquiring land and 'choosing to send sensitive matters to particular benches by misusing his authority '. The opposition parties met Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and handed over a notice for the impeachment of the CJI with signatures of 64 sitting MPs of the Upper House.

Naidu then held discussions with a number of constitutional and legal experts, including Attorney General KK Venugopal, and former top law officer K Parasaran. Officials told PTI, that Naidu spoke to former Lok Sabha secretary general Subhash Kashyap, ex-law secretary P K Malhotra and former legislative secretary Sanjay Singh as well about the issue. He also held deliberations with senior officials of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat, they said, adding that Naidu also spoke to former Supreme Court judge B Sudarshan Reddy.

While reviewing the notice, a few sources in the Rajya Sabha said that making public the contents of a notice before it is admitted by the chair is in violation of parliamentary rules. According to the provisions in the handbook for Rajya Sabha members, no advance publicity should be given to any notice to be taken up in the House till it is admitted by the chairman. In passing, Naidu has referred to para 2.2 of the Handbook for Members of Rajya Sabha and mentioned that the press conference after the impeachment motion is 'against propriety and parliamentary decorum as it denigrates the institution of CJI'.

Based on latest reports, here are the reasons why Naidu rejected the "impeachment motion" against CJI Misra:

  • Motion undermines independence of judiciary
  • No credible/verifiable facts.
  • Going to press by MPs denigrated institution of CJI
  • MPs are unsure of their own charges
  • Some charges are internal matters to be resolved by Supreme Court itself

Since the Opposition did not have proof to back their allegations against Misra, Naidu said there is no 'proven misconduct by the CJI'. News18 also reported that the vice-president said that the motion also had "little substance in their arguments". The Opposition's charges mention vague words like 'maybe', 'could be', News18 further quoted Naidu's order. 'I find virtually no concrete verifiable imputation', Naidu has stated in his order.

While impeachment proceedings have never been taken up against a Chief Justice of India, the procedure says after such a notice is given, the chairman forwards it to the Rajya Sabha secretariat to verify mainly two things — the signatures of the members who signed the petition and whether the rules and procedures have been followed. It is important to note here, that as per terms of the law, no judge or CJI can be 'impeached' as such. The term is used only for the removal of the President of India.

Article 124 of Constitution makes the CJI head of the Supreme Court and also provides for the manner of his removal. A person appointed as the CJI or any other judge of the Supreme Court can only be removed on the ground of "proved misbehaviour or incapacity" before retirement due to age (65 years) or resignation or death.

 Venkaiah Naidu rejects Congress impeachment motion against CJI Dipak Misra: 5 reasons that explain the decision

File image of vice-president Venkaiah Naidu. PTI

"A Judge of the Supreme Court shall not be removed from his office except by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity," reads Article 124(4) of the Constitution of India.

This provision of Constitution paved the way for the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 and the Judges (Inquiry) Rules, 1969 which have laid down the entire process of removal of a Supreme Court judge. The process is formally called Impeachment. Impeachment of CJI or any other Supreme Court judge can be initiated in either House of Parliament. It requires a notice of motion issued by 100 MPs from the Lok Sabha or 50 MPs from the Rajya Sabha.

The notice can be presented to the Speaker or the Chairman of the House (Vice President) as the case may be. The Speaker or the Chairman can accept or reject the notice of the motion for Impeachment of the CJI or any other Supreme Court judge. The admissibility of the petition is the prerogative of the chairman who must satisfy both the genuineness and legality” of the petition. When the notice of the motion for Impeachment is accepted the Speaker or the Chairman form a three-member committee to investigate the charges.

The inquiry committee comprises a senior judge of the Supreme Court, a judge of a high court and a distinguished jurist. The inquiry committee would look into the charges levelled by the legislators against the CJI and submits its report to the Speaker or the Chairman.

If the three-member committee finds merit in the allegations and recommends that the motion of Impeachment be taken up by the relevant House, the process for removal of the CJI would begin. The judge against whom a motion of Impeachment has been moved can defend himself personally or through a representative before the House.

Now the motion of Impeachment is taken up by the concerned House of Parliament. The motion is then put to vote and the House must pass it by a special majority. This means that at least two-thirds of the members present, which cannot be less than half of the strength of the House, must vote in support of the motion of Impeachment.

Once the originating House passes the motion of Impeachment against the CJI, it will be taken up by the other House, which needs to pass it by a two-thirds special majority. After both the Houses have passed the motion of Impeachment, it is placed before the President for his/her approval. Once President gives his/her assent, the CJI stands impeached.

Congress is now considering moving the Supreme Court if the notice to impeach is rejected. Party leaders have said if the Upper House chairman does not find merit in the notice of the impeachment, the decision could call for a judicial review. Chief Justice Dipak Misra retires on 2 October, which leaves the process with only a few months to act on. The Opposition has the option of forcing a vote on their petition but that would only be possible in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

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Updated Date: Apr 23, 2018 11:36:12 IST

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