Miffed Cong calls decision ‘illegal, unprecedented & hasty’, will move SC.
New Delhi: Indian judiciary on Monday entered uncharted territory when Rajya Sabha chairperson M. Venkaiah Naidu rejected the impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra submitted by seven Opposition parties, shortly after which the Congress party decided to move the apex court challenging the Vice-President’s order. The Congress, in fact, will trigger an unprecedented crisis in the judiciary when their petition challenging Mr Naidu’s order is admitted. Convention demands that the CJI doesn’t hear the case himself and the next senior most judge — who is in this case is Justice J Chelameswar — gets to hear it.
Justice Chelameswar is one of the four judges, who had held a press conference in January on the problems facing the Supreme Court, chief among which was the CJI’s functioning as master of the roster.
Rajya Sabha chairperson Mr Naidu, who had held extensive consultations with top legal and constitutional experts, including former chief justices and judges, before taking the decision, rejected the motion early Monday morning before the Supreme Court opened citing lack of substantial merit in it.
In a detailed order, the Vice-President said he had a detailed conversation on all the aspects arising from the notice. “Based on all this, I have come to the conclusion that this motion does not deserve to be admitted...On careful analysis and reflection, I find there is virtually no concrete verifiable imputation. We cannot allow any of our pillars of governance to be weakened by any thought, word or action,” he said, adding, “In the absence of credible and verifiable information placed before me which gives an indication of ‘misbehavior’ or ‘incapacity’, it would be inappropriate and irresponsible act to accept statement which have (sic) little imperial basis,” he said.
Mr Naidu further said that he was satisfied that admission of this notice of motion was “neither desirable nor proper”. Turning to the Rajya Sabha handbook to reject the impeachment motion, he said: “In passing, I am constrained to observe that in this matter, the well-established parliamentary customs and conventions as have been delineated in para 2.2 of the Handbook for Members of Rajya Sabha, have been disregarded.”
In a hard-hitting response, senior lawyer and Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who is one of the chief architects of the motion said: “We will certainly move a petition in the Supreme Court against the order by the RS chairman and hope that the CJI will not be hearing it.” He also termed the rejection of the motion by Mr Naidu as “unprecedented, illegal, ill-advised and hasty”.
“We believe that the chairman has limited jurisdiction of whether to admit the motion or not. He has crossed that jurisdiction,” the senior lawyer said, adding, in taking his decision Mr Naidu had referred to a handbook on Rajya Sabha functioning which was not applicable as the House was not in session when the motion was submitted.
“It seems that the government is very keen that this (charge made in the petition) must not be allowed to be inquired into. Maybe they have information that the CBI has information, maybe by scuttling the inquiry they don’t want a lot of information to come on record. It puts the judicial system into jeopardy,” he further added.
However, the decision to go to court seemed to be the Congress’ alone. Other parties who had signed the motion, including Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party remained largely non-committal. Mr Sibal questioned the lukewarm attitude of other parties on the question of going to court. “It is not any political party but 64 Rajya Sabha members who moved the impeachment motion. So these MPs will move Supreme Court.”
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said: “Opposition parties will take recourse to all means to ensure that India’s Constitution is protected and implemented in its true spirit.” “If the Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha is going to decide in the merits of a notice of impeachment, then what is the inquiry panel supposed to do? That’s the reason why no earlier notice for impeachment has been rejected by the Chair so far,” he tweeted.
CPI national secretary D. Raja also supported this line, but added that all Opposition parties who signed the motion need to sit together and decide the future course of action.
This is the first time ever that an impeachment notice has been filed against a sitting CJI.
The ruling BJP on its part welcomed the Rajya Sabha Chairman’s decision. BJP national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said the Congress has a “long history of disrupting institutions of democracy”. Ms Lekhi said the judiciary is one institution which is respected by all and their independence has to be maintained but the Congress has repeatedly shown that they are institutional disruptors and they can go to any extent to play their dirty politics. She advised the Opposition party that the “rule of law can not be confused with the rule of dynasty”.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Congress of running the country through courts based on “half-baked, false and sponsored litigations”, alleging that it used the death of judge B.H. Loya as a political tool to settle scores.
He said the Congress’ use of litigation was “directly proportionate” to the repeated reversals it was facing in elections.