Impeachment motion against Chief Justice: Dipak Misra controversy explained

File photo of Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra
The Congress on Tuesday began the process of initiating the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra and was collecting signatures of members of parliament (MPs) of various Opposition parties. 

What has Dipak Misra allegedly done?

On January 11, four top-level Supreme Court (SC) judges, had in a press conference, made complaints against Dipak Misra, on the grounds of administrative and judicial irregularity in the apex court. 

Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurien Joseph had said Misra was assigning important cases in an arbitrary manner to junior judges, ignoring these four senior judges. 

‘India’s democracy is at stake’, the judges alleged and questioned the sacred position of the Chief Justice of India. 

Based on this, the Opposition is circulating a petition to gather the support of other political parties in order to bring the impeachment motion. National Congress Party (NCP) member D P Tripathi said on Tuesday, “the charges are far more serious" and it emanates from the letter that four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court had earlier written a statement that there was a danger to the independence of the judiciary.

"I have signed it and others are also signing it and the process is going on,” added Tripathi. 

Cases against Dipak Misra 

The draft proposal has called Misra’s case as "abuse of authority to arbitrarily assign individual cases to select judges", according to media reports. 

Prasad Education Trust case: One of the cases under the radar is illegal gratification in the Prasad Education Trust case, according to News 18. The case pertains to accepting bribery by medical institutions for getting clearances to set up medical colleges. It has been alleged that Misra had submitted a false affidavit allowing the acquisition of lands to the institutions for building medical colleges. 

Justice Loya’s death: Dipak Misra had allegedly refused SC judges’ petition, which demanded an independent probe against Loya’s death, according to the presser of the four senior SC judges. 

How can the Chief Justice of India be impeached?

> To move an impeachment motion against the CJI, signatures of 100 MPs are needed in Lok Sabha and in Rajya Sabha, signatures of 50 members are required. The motion can be introduced by in either of the House.

> After the motion is introduced, it will be up to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha to accept it. In this case, it would be up to Sumitra Mahajan and Venkaiah Naidu, respectively. 

> If the motion is accepted, a three-member committee, comprising one judge of the SC, one judge of the high court and one notable jurist, would be formed to further investigate the charges. 

> If the three-member committee further decides to support the motion, the matter will be taken up for discussion in the House where it had been originally introduced. The impeachment process will get passed only when either 100 Lok Sabha MPs or 50 Rajya Sabha members support the motion.

> Irrespective of which House introduces the motion, according to the Indian Constitution, it will have to be passed by the other House as well. Only after gaining a two-thirds majority in both the Houses, will the motion finally get passed to the President of India. 

> In this case, if the motion is passed in both the Houses, President Ram Nath Kovind will take the final call. 

Who are the political parties supporting the impeachment process? 

The draft proposal of the impeachment motion has been drafted by the Indian National Congress. However, there was no confirmation about the move from the Congress and its senior leaders avoided questions on the matter.

Confirming Congress’ initiation, NCP leader Majeed Memon said, "The Congress as the largest opposition party has belatedly initiated the proceedings for the impeachment of the Chief Justice of India.”

Another party on board with the motion is the Samajwadi party. According to media reports, Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress would extend support. 

"The Samajwadi Party stands with the impeachment motion, which is about bringing independence and unquestionable integrity to the judiciary," SP leader Ghanshyam Tiwari said, according to news agency ANI.

YSR Congress Party MP M Rajamohan Reddy on Wednesday said that his party has not received any proposal for moving an impeachment motion.

Understanding the Constitution of India’s guidelines 

The Indian Constitution mentions that the CJI can remain in office till the age of 65 years. Under Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 and the Judges (Inquiry) Rules, 1969, the impeachment of the CJI or an SC judge, motion needs to be introduced in either Houses of the Parliament. 

Article 124(4) of the Constitution of India, "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."

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