Naidu rejects CJI impeachment notice; Cong to move SC challenging decision

Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu said CJI Dipak Misra’s (pictured) impeachment notice lacked merit
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday rejected the impeachment notice given by 64 Rajya Sabha members of the Congress and six other opposition parties against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra.

Naidu said the impeachment notice lacked substantial merit. He said the allegations were neither “tenable nor admissible”, and could undermine the independence of the judiciary. Naidu, who is also the vice-president, said the issues raised were an internal matter of the judiciary. “We will certainly move a petition in the Supreme Court to challenge this order, and we are confident that when we move the petition, the chief justice has nothing to do with it,” Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who has spearheaded the campaign to file the impeachment notice, said. Sibal said the rejection of the impeachment notice was unprecedented as never before a motion moved by MPs been dismissed at the preliminary stage. He added the move was illegal because the Rajya Sabha Chairman has passed an order which is required to be passed after a full-fledged inquiry. 

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 “It seems the government is keen that this (allegations against the CJI) must not be allowed to be inquired into. They don’t want this information to come on record,” Sibal said. The Congress leader said, according to rules, the Chairman or Speaker only need to satisfy themselves if the allegations are not frivolous, and whether the petition is signed by 50 MPs.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said Naidu acted in a “hurried manner”, while several others, including noted constitutional experts Soli Sorabjee and Fali S Nariman, defended Naidu’s decision. Chatterjee said the episode has set a bad precedence, which is not good for democracy. 

“There are procedures in the Constitution and the Chairman of Rajya Sabha should have followed it instead of acting in a hurried manner,” Chatterjee said.

Leaders of seven political parties had met Naidu on Friday to submit the impeachment notice against the CJI. In the notice, the MPs have levelled five charges of “misbehaviour” against the CJI. 

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Sources said Naidu consulted with constitutional experts before taking the decision. “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,” Naidu said in his order. “The allegations emerging from the present case have a serious tendency of undermining the independence of the judiciary, which is the basic tenet of the Constitution of India.” 

“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,” the Rajya Sabha Chairman said. The vice-president said the MPs who have presented the petition are themselves “unsure” of their case as the phrases used by them indicate “a mere suspicion, a conjecture or are assumptions”.  

He also said the Opposition disregarded the guidelines in the Handbook for Members of Rajya Sabha by going public with their impeachment motion. 

“I don’t see chances of the writ petition (challenging Naidu’s decision) succeeding,” Sorabjee said, and supported the Rajya Sabha Chairman’s decision in rejecting the motion. Nariman said the issues raised in the impeachment notice against the CJI were not of sufficient gravity and were rightly rejected.

CJI Misra and other Supreme Court judges on Monday held a longer than usual morning meeting, leading to a delay of about 15 minutes in starting of proceedings in all courts, amid speculation that they discussed the notice to remove the CJI and its rejection.

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