Impeachment motion against CJI: Manmohan refrains; TMC, DMK demand proof

Opposition parties led by the Congress met today to give the final shape to the proposed impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. Illustration: Ajay Mohanty 
The handling of the contentious case pertaining to a Lucknow-based trust that runs a medical college, the alleged "misuse of authority" as Master of the Roster and a charge relating to acquiring of a piece of land are among the issues cited in a notice of impeachment against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra for "misbehaviour". The seven parties, including the Congress, that moved the impeachment notice against Misra, listed out five counts of "misbehaviour" which include a charge that the CJI brought a piece of land by filing an affidavit later found to be "false" and he returned the plot only in 2012 after he was elevated even though the same was cancelled in 1985. Addressing a press conference, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said the charges as stated "suggest conduct unbecoming of a person" holding the office of the Chief Justice of India.

"We took upon ourselves to move the impeachment motion in the background set out above but on the basis of charges of acts of misbehaviour that are set out in the impeachment motion. We do not wish to repeat those charges here in detail. "We only wish to state that anyone occupying the office of the Chief Justice of India must be judged on the basis of the highest standards of integrity," he said, demanding an inquiry against the CJI under the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.

Leaders of the seven opposition parties, led by Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, submitted the notice of impeachment to Vice-President, and also Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday afternoon. The notice was signed by Rajya Sabha members of the Congress, CPI (M), Nationalist Congress Party, CPI, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Indian Union Muslim League.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam members had signed the notice but retracted it later. The Rashtriya Janata Dal and Trinamool Congress members did not sign. Other notables who did not sign were former prime minister Manmohan Singh and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram. The BJP accused the Congress of trying to “demean, degrade and denigrate” the judiciary because it was losing political ground.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Congress and its friends were using impeachment as a “political tool”. Jaitley termed the impeachment notice a “revenge petition” after the falsehood of the Congress was established in the Loya case.

While hearing a petition few hours before opposition leaders submitted the impeach notice, the Supreme Court said it was “very disturbed” at the course of developments. Justice A K Sikri observed it was “very unfortunate” that despite knowing the law, which states, the issue of impeachment cannot be made public till a certain point, the politicians were holding public discussions.

Here are the top 10 developments around the Congress and Opposition's move to bring in an impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra:

1) SC disturbed at MPs raising CJI impeachment issue in public:
The Supreme Court today said it was "very disturbed" at the course of developments involving public statements by the Members of Parliament (MPs) on the removal of the Chief Justice of India (CJI). The observations were made during the hearing of a petition, a few hours before the Congress and other opposition parties submitted a notice to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for initiating impeachment proceedings against CJI Dipak Misra. The apex court said it was "very unfortunate" that despite knowing the law that till a certain point, the issue of impeachment cannot be made public, the politicians were holding public discussions.

2) Loya won't be forgotten, there is hope as millions can see truth, says Rahul: Congress President Rahul Gandhi today said India will not allow judge B H Loya to be forgotten and millions of Indians can see the truth. His remarks came as the Congress and six other opposition parties moved a notice for impeachment of the Chief Justice of India, a day after the apex court rejected pleas for a probe into the death of Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh alleged fake encounter case.

"'There is no hope left, everything is managed' say Judge Loya's family. I want to tell them, there is hope. There is hope because millions of Indians can see the truth.

"India will not allow Judge Loya to be forgotten," he said on Twitter.

3) Manmohan Singh does not sign notice for impeachment of CJI: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not among the 71 Rajya Sabha members who have signed the unprecedented motion for impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. Neither are other senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Abhishek Singhvi.

"We didn't involve Manmohan Singh intentionally as he is an ex-PM," said Congress leader Kapil Sibal.

On others who hadn't signed, Mr Sibal said: "We didn't want a few others to be embarrassed as certain matters are pending."

4) Jaitley accuses Congress of using impeachment as a political tool: In a scathing Facebook post, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the 114 page judgement in the Judge Loya death case authored by Justice D Y Chandrachud on behalf of the three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court "exposes every fact of the conspiracy" to generate falsehood as propaganda in the public and political space. Referring to the move of Congress and six other opposition parties to impeach Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra, Jaitley said: "The Congress Party and its friends have started using impeachment as a political tool".

Stressing that trivialising the use of power of impeachment is a "dangerous event", he said the move is an attempt to "intimidate" a Judge and send a message to other Judges, "that if you don't agree with us, fifty MP's are enough for a revenge action".

5) Opposition parties meet to firm up impeachment motion against CJI Misra: Opposition parties led by the Congress today met Vice President and Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and handed over a notice for impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. According to sources, over 60 MPs of the Rajya Sabha belonging to seven political parties gave the notice for the impeachment against the CJI. The MPs who signed the notice belong to the Congress, the NCP, the CPI-M and CPI, the SP and the BSP. The leaders of these parties earlier met in Parliament and gave final shape to the notice for impeachment. After the meeting, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad confirmed that the leaders were moving the notice for impeachment against CJI.

6) Congress, SP, BSP, others working on impeachment motion: The Opposition parties expected to attend the meeting to discuss the impeachment motion include the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Janta Dal, the Communist Party of India, and the Nationalist Congress Party.

7) Even before Loya verdict, Congress had said impeachment option against CJI was open: The Congress earlier this month had said that the option of moving an impeachment motion against CJI Misra was still open and had added that it would be a very sad day if the Opposition has to take that step. "We are very very concerned about what is happening in court (in the Supreme Court). The issues, which were raised by four SC judges, have not been addressed yet. We believe the option (impeachment) which is available to us is still open," senior party leader and noted lawyer Kapil Sibal had told reporters.

Asked why the motion was not moved during the then just-ended Budget session of Parliament, he had said: "Nothing has come in the way. This is not some instant coffee. we are dealing with an institution... And, I want to make it very clear that it will be a very sad day if the Opposition has to take that step. It will be with a very heavy heart but that does not mean that the Opposition has foreclosed that option."

"We are as concerned about the independence of the judiciary as anybody else, but we want to protect the institution. We mean the people of India must protect this institution from the kind of gross interferences by the government and be protected also from within. So, we have to wait. This is a serious matter and if we think about it, calmly, coolly, look at all the possible consequences and then come to a conclusion," he added.

Asked about reservations shown by DMK about the impeachment motion, Sibal had said: "You require 50 signatures of the Rajya Sabha and 100 signatures in the Lok Sabha. That is all you require. The law does not say that every Opposition party must be represented."

8) After signature collecting drive, Congress had kept move on hold during Budget session: During the Budget session, which concluded earlier this month, the Congress had initiated a move collecting more than 50 signatures of Rajya Sabha members in a bid to table the impeachment motion against CJI Misra. However, there were reservations from parties like the Trinamool Congress. Subsequently, the Congress kept the move on hold, saying that it wanted to get as much support as possible from other parties.

9) Justice Chelameswar says CJI impeachment can't answer all problems in judiciary: Justice J Chelameswar, who had earlier courted controversy by virtually revolting against CJI Misra, earlier this month had said that impeachment cannot be an answer to every question and problem, adding that there was a need to correct the system. Justice Chelameswar, the senior-most judge after the CJI, said the January 12 press conference he held along with justices Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur, and Kurian Joseph, was the result of "anguish" and "concern" as their deliberations with the CJI did not achieve the desired results on the issues raised by them regarding the functioning of the top court.

Asked by journalist Karan Thapar, who was in conversation with the judge, if there is "sufficient ground for seeking impeachment of the Chief Justice of India", Justice Chelameswar said: "Why this question is asked?"

"The other day, someone was asking for my impeachment. I don't know why this nation is worried about impeachment so much. In fact, we (along with Justice Gogoi) wrote in the judgement of Justice C S Karnan that apart from that, there must be mechanisms to put the system in order. Impeachment can't be the answer for every question or every problem. A few days ago, I heard somebody asking for my impeachment. Like the saying goes, I don't agree with you but I shall protect your right to say so," he said.

Read our detailed copy on why Opposition parties are aiming to impeach CJI Dipak Misra: Impeachment motion against Chief Justice: Dipak Misra controversy explained 

10) What is an impeachment motion? Under Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968, and the Judges (Inquiry) Rules, 1969, for the impeachment of the CJI or a Supreme Court judge, the motion needs to be introduced in either Houses of the Parliament. Article 124(4) of the Constitution of India says, "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."

How does an impeachment motion work? An impeachment motion works in the following way: 

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

b) 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.

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

d) 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.

e) 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.

f) If the motion is passed in both the Houses, then the President will take the final call.  

How did the talk of an impeachment motion against CJI Dipak Misra begin? The talks of an impeachment motion came after Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur, and Kurian Joseph in January this year held a press conference and issued a statement to say that the situation in the Supreme Court was "not in order" and that many "less than desirable" things had taken place. They had said that "democracy will not survive in the country" unless the institution was preserved.
With agency inputs

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