New Delhi: The rejection of notice for impeachment of Chief Justice Dipak Misra by Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu at the preliminary stage itself today had a precedent nearly five decades ago when a Supreme Court judge faced such a bid for the first time.
An impeachment motion against Justice JC Shah was submitted to Lok Sabha speaker GS Dhillon in May 1970 following a campaign by a former government servant, O P Gupta, charging Shah with dishonesty after the judge made certain remarks about him during a hearing. The notice was, however, turned down by the Speaker after stating it as "frivolous".
Besides rejection of such notice against CJI Misra and Justice Shah at the preliminary stage, there was another such case when 58 Rajya Sabha MPs had moved a petition before the Chairman and former Vice-President Hamid Ansari against Gujarat High Court judge Justice JB Pardiwala in 2015 for his alleged "unconstitutional" remarks against reservation.
Facing the possibility of an impeachment motion against him, Justice Pardiwala expunged the remarks he had made against reservation in the Hardik Patel case order on an application by the state government seeking removal of the controversial portion.
Later, no effort was made to take forward the notice of impeachment against Pardiwala.
Impeachment proceedings against judges made progress in Parliament for the first time in 1993 when Supreme Court judge V Ramaswami faced charges of corruption following the report of an inquiry commission.
Senior advocate and Congress Rajya Sabha lawmaker Kapil Sibal, who is at the forefront and spearheading the campaign to impeach the present CJI, however, had put up a spirited defence in favour of Ramaswami in the Lok Sabha.
The impeachment motion, moved during the PV Narasimha Rao government, failed in the Lok Sabha as it could not muster support of two-third members of the house as required under Article 124 (4) of the Constitution.
Besides Justice Ramaswami, impeachment motion was moved against Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Sen in 2011 on the charge of financial misappropriation as a judge and misrepresenting facts.
The motion was passed in the upper house and Sen, who had put up his defence in Rajya Sabha, sensed the outcome and resigned before the motion was put to vote in Lok Sabha.
Justice PD Dinakaran, the then Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court, tendered his resignation in 2011 before impeachment proceedings could begin after an inquiry panel had found enough prima facie material relating to charges of land-grab, corruption and abuse of judicial office against him. He was transferred from the Karnataka High Court to the Sikkim High Court after he refused to follow orders to go on leave.
In 2016, Justice Nagarjuna Reddy of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana was under the scanner when 61 Rajya Sabha members moved a petition for his impeachment on charges of misusing his position to "victimise" a "Dalit" judge.
Later, nine of the 54 members of the Rajya Sabha, who had proposed the initiation of proceedings against him, withdrew their signatures.
Seven opposition parties led by the Congress met Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday last and handed over a notice with signatures of 64 MPs of the Upper House, accusing the CJI of five counts of "misbehaviour" and "misusing" authority.
The impeachment notice came a day after the Supreme Court rejected a bunch of petitions seeking an independent probe into the death of judge B H Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.
For initiating the impeachment process, a motion has to be moved by either 100 Lok Sabha members of Parliament or 50 Rajya Sabha MPs. If the motion is admitted, the Speaker of Lok Sabha or Chairman of Rajya Sabha constitutes an inquiry committee.
This inquiry committee has three members — a Supreme Court judge, a high court Chief Justice and an eminent jurist. The committee frames charges and asks the judge to give a written response.
The judge also has the right to examine witnesses. After the inquiry, the committee determines whether the charges are valid or not and then it finally submits its report.
If the inquiry committee finds that the judge is not guilty, then there is no further action. If they find him guilty, then the House of Parliament which initiated the motion may consider continuing with the motion.
The motion is then debated and the judge (or his representative) has the right to represent his case. After that, the motion is voted upon. If there is two-thirds support of those voting, and majority support of the total strength of the House, it is considered to have passed. The process is then repeated in the other House.
After that, the Houses sends an address to the President asking that the judge be removed from office.
Last year, a Rajya Sabha appointed panel gave a clean chit to a sitting judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court after probing charges of sexual harassment of a judicial officer against him.
The panel, comprising Supreme Court judge R Bhanumathi, Justice Manjula Chellur and jurist KK Venugopal, was set up in April 2015 by then Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari after admitting a motion supported by 58 members to impeach Justice SK Gangele.
Updated Date: Apr 23, 2018 20:56 PM