CJI impeachment: Naidu order on motion illegal, says Congress; highlights

Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on Monday rejected the impeachment motion moved by seven Congress-led Opposition parties against CJI Dipak Misra. Illustration: Ajay Mohanty

Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday 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.

Here are the top ten developments around Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu rejecting Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra's impeachment notice:

1) Congress to file petition in SCHours after Venkaiah Naidu rejected the impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, the Congress on Monday decided to file a petition in the Supreme Court.

Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal said, "We will certainly file a petition (in Supreme Court) against this and would want the CJI to not take any decision with respect to it, be it the listing or anything else, we'll accept whatever Supreme Court decides," according to news agency ANI.

The Congress leader stressed that never before in India's history had a motion moved by MPs been dismissed at the preliminary stage. The order shattered the confidence of the people and jeopardised the legal system, he added, reported PTI. "We will ensure the CJI would have nothing to do with this petition," Sibal said.

2) Legal experts divided on CJI impeachment: Justice (Retd) R S Sodhi on Monday welcomed Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu's rejection of an opposition-introduced impeachment motion against Supreme Court Chief Justice Dipak Misra, saying that the move "can't be considered as a wise act."

"One knows that they don't have any ground, they know that they can't impeach him. In spite of knowing all that, still they went on and plunged into this ill-advised move. This can't be considered as a wise act," Justice Sodhi said.

Senior Supreme Court advocate K T S Tulsi, however, disagreed, saying that the charges against Chief Justice Misra needed to be examined as per procedure, which was not done.

"I think the Chairman (Naidu) prejudged the issue and has misread the provision of the Constitution. This is a very serious matter and we can't allow the cancer of corruption to grow. If there is evidence, then there is a committee which has to take a decision on the same," Tulsi said.

3) Soli Sorabjee welcomes Naidu's rejection: Eminent jurist and former Attorney General of India Soli Sorabjee welcomed Naidu's rejection of the impeachment notice against CJI Misra, saying that the Rajya Sabha chairman has "rightly applied his mind". Sorabjee said the Vice-President has found no merit in the notice given by Opposition parties led by the Congress for impeachment and has consulted legal experts before arriving at the decision. "The vice president has applied his mind. He has consulted legal experts and has come to a decision. We did not want the matter hanging indefinitely. He (Naidu) has gone into the matter and has found no merit in it and no ground for impeachment, therefore, he rejected it," Sorabjee told a TV channel. 

When asked about the procedure ahead if the Opposition moves the apex court to challenge Naidu's decision, Sorabjee said he did not see the petition succeeding. "I don't see chances of the writ petition (challenging the VP's decision) succeeding," he said. "We cannot allow any of our pillars of governance to be weakened by any thought, word or action," the Vice-President said in his order.

Earlier, Sorabjee, who was attorney general during the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had made a scathing attack on the Opposition's decision to proceed with the impeachment motion against the CJI, saying, "This is the worst that could happen to the independence of the judiciary." He also said that Friday's event would shake the confidence and faith of the people in the judiciary. Terming it a sorry state of affairs, Sorabjee told a TV channel that there was no ground to impeach the CJI and that the judiciary should sort out its problems itself without allowing politicians to get into them. "...Please don't affect the public faith in the judiciary," he said. Coming out in support of Justice Misra, Sorabjee said a judge cannot be impeached merely because of an error of judgement. "The chief justice is not above the law. He can be impeached but on what ground? If you start an impeachment motion against the CJI on the ground that a certain order of his is wrong, then the very independence of judiciary will be at stake. You are dealing with the chief justice. There should be solid, cogent, substantial grounds for doing so," he said.

Read our copy on what the top legal experts had to say about Opposition's move to have CJI Misra impeached: CJI Dipak Misra impeachment suicidal, hara-kiri: Top 10 law experts' quotes  

4) R S Sodhi says impeachment notice not a wise act: Former Delhi High Court judge and a practicing senior counsel in the Supreme Court, R S Sodhi, said that inspite of knowing that it had no ground and that it cannot impeach CJI Misra, Congress went and plunged into this ill-advised move. "This can't be considered as a wise act," he added.

You know you don't have any ground, you know you can't impeach him. In spite of knowing all that still you go on & plunge in this ill-advised move. This can't be considered as a wise act: Justice (Retd) RS Sodhi on rejection of Impeachment Notice against CJI by VP Venkaiah Naidu. 

— ANI (@ANI) April 23, 2018

Further, the Vice-President said that after having perused annexures to the motion, along with having detailed consultations and receiving the studied opinions of constitutional experts, he is satisfied that admission of the impeachment notice is neither desirable nor proper. 

After having perused annexures to the Motion & having detailed consultations & having studied opinions of constitutional experts I am satisfied that admission of this notice of #ImpeachmentMotion is neither desirable nor proper: Vice President

— ANI (@ANI) April 23, 2018

Naidu met legal experts before rejecting impeachment notice: Before deciding to reject the Opposition's impeachment motion against CJI Misra, Vice-President Naidu held extensive consultations with top legal and constitutional experts, sources told news agencies. The rejection of the notice, the sources added, comes a day after Naidu held consultations with experts to determine the maintainability of the motion. The sources said that Vice-President Naidu even re-scheduled his travel plans, considering the seriousness of the matter, to be able to meet these experts. 
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