Sources said the motion might be moved in the Rajya Sabha either on Wednesday or early next week once it gets requisite number of signatures. The draft impeachment motion has charged the CJI with conflict of interest in a case and also abusing “his administrative authority as the master of roster to arbitrarily assign individual cases of particular advocates in important politically sensitive cases to select judges to achieve a predetermined outcome”.
According to sources, the push for moving the impeachment motion against the CJI has come from Left parties. The opinion in the Congress is divided, while two NCP members have signed the motion. Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee said the Congress and other parties should discuss and take the lead on the issue. The Bengal CM on Tuesday was in Parliament, where senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan met her. Sources in her party said Bhushan met Banerjee to discuss the impeachment motion. Banerjee indicated that the issues raised by the four senior most SC judges at a press conference in January were yet to be resolved.
Majeed Memon, the NCP’s Rajya Sabha member, said he had signed the draft impeachment motion, as did D Raja of the CPI. Some other NCP and Congress members have also signed the draft as have Left party MPs. It is, however, the discretion of the Speaker or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha to admit the motion and constitute a committee to investigate the charges. If admitted, this would be the first impeachment motion against a serving CJI.
Officially, the Congress continued to remain ambiguous on the issue. A Congress source insisted that the party had not circulated the draft. The push for moving the impeachment initially came from Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury.
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had in January held an internal meeting of the party’s senior lawyers on the issue. This was days after the press conference by the Supreme Court judges, but the opinion among Congress leaders was divided.
Congress sources said the government’s unwillingness to debate the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha had betrayed its nervousness. This has led some in the Congress to argue that the party should put the Narendra Modi government under pressure on a host of issues, including those ailing the judiciary.
An impeachment motion against a serving judge has an onerous process to it. After the motion is admitted, a committee is set up to probe the charges, and is known to have taken over a year in previous cases. The CJI retires later this year.
It also requires to be passed by two-thirds of at least half the strength of the two Houses. The opposition does not have the requisite numbers in either of the two Houses.
However, it believes moving an impeachment motion would at least lead to the issues raised by the four judges be discussed in the public domain.