VP rejects notice to impeach CJI
Cong says, “Hasty step, will move SC”; BJP slams Congress
The Vice President of India and Rajya Sabha Chairman, M Venkaiah Naidu today rejected the unprecedented notice by seven opposition parties led by the Congress to impeach CJI Dipak Misra on five grounds of “misbehaviour”, saying the allegations were neither “tenable nor admissible”.
But the order by the vice president that came two days after the opposition parties launched the impeachment bid was slammed as “hasty” by the Congress, sparking a war of words with the ruling BJP. The notice was dismissed at the preliminary stage of the multi-step impeachment process. The order, which said that the Notice of Motion does not deserve to be admitted, also drew a mixed response among the legal fraternity. It was given shortly before the Supreme Court reassembled after the weekend recess.
Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said the party would move the Supreme Court to challenge what he said was an “unprecedented, illegal, ill-advised and hasty order” which had “shattered” the confidence of people and “jeopardised” the legal system.
Sources said that Naidu, who chairs the Rajya Sabha, arrived at the decision based on the opinion of top legal and constitutional experts, including former secretary generals of Lok Sabha and other legal luminaries with whom he held extensive consultations. Naidu also took the views of top legal and constitutional experts, including former chief justices and judges, over the past two days before taking the decision, the sources said.
He said 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.
Leaders of seven opposition parties had on Friday last met Naidu and handed over the notice of impeachment against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) bearing signatures of 64 MPs and seven former members, who recently retired. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called the notice a “revenge petition” after the Supreme Court rejected a plea for an independent probe into the death of judge B H Loya who presided over the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.
“I have considered the material contained in the Notice of Motion and reflected upon the inputs received in my interaction with legal luminaries and constitutional experts, I am of the firm opinion that the Notice of Motion does not deserve to be admitted,” Naidu said in the order. “I refuse to admit the Notice of Motion,” he said.
Naidu said he had detailed personal conversation on all aspects arising from the notice and had considered each of the allegations made in it individually as well as collectively. “Clearly this is an internal matter to be resolved by the Supreme court itself. Going through the five allegations mentioned in the notice, I am of the view that they are neither tenable nor admissible,” he said in his order.
“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,” he said. The Rajya Sabha chairman said that after having perused annexures to the motion, detailed consultations and studied opinions of constitutional experts, he was “satisfied that admission of this Notice of Motion is neither desirable nor proper on any of these grounds”.
Naidu also held that, “We cannot allow any of our pillars of governance to be weakened by any thought, word or action.”
“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 little imperial basis,” he said.
Sibal told reporters that the Chairman’s order jeopardised the country’s legal system and alleged that the government was not keen to see a probe into the case. “The order is unprecedented, illegal, ill-advised and hasty,” Sibal said, adding that it had been passed without a full-fledged enquiry. “We will certainly move a petition in the Supreme Court to challenge this order”, he added.
AICC media-in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala also criticised the decision and said it was a fight between forces “rejecting democracy” and voices “rescuing democracy”.
Attacking the Congress for trying to “intimidate” judiciary, BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi thanked the Vice President for rejecting the petition. She alleged that after losing votes and support of people, Congress was resorting to the tactics of “threatening” and pressurising judiciary.
The five allegations of “misbehaviour” mentioned in the impeachment notice include a “conspiracy to pay illegal gratification” in the Prasad Education Trust case and the denial of permission to proceed against a retired high court judge in the same matter, according to Sibal.
Eminent jurist Fali S Nariman said the issues raised in the impeachment notice against the CJI were not of “sufficient gravity” and were “rightly rejected” by the Vice President.
But lawyer-politician Somnath Chatterjee, a former Lok Sabha, said Naidu acted in a “hurried manner”.
“This instance has set a bad precedent, which is not good for democracy,” he told PTI in Kolkata, adding that Naidu should have followed proper procedures before rejecting the notice.