Congress gets 65 Rajya Sabha MPs’ signatures for CJI’s removal, seeks broader consensus
The Congress, the largest Opposition party, has collected signatures of its Rajya Sabha MPs to back a proposal to remove Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra but is waiting for a broader consensus within Opposition ranks on the issue, three party leaders familiar with the development said on Monday.
So, far, the Opposition camp has been able to collect around 65 signatures—15 more than the minimum requirement to move a proposal to impeach the CJI in the House — and parties such as the Nationalist Congress Party, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party have agreed to back the move.
“Last week, we gave our signatures on two sets of blank papers. The first set was for the motion of removal of CJI and the second set was for a petition on the dilution of the SC/ST act,” said a senior Congress MP from South India, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Congress’ official stance is that discussions are ongoing.
A second Congress leader, who is playing a key role in mobilizing opposition leaders to support the move, said on condition of anonymity that “More than 50 Congress MPs have signed but the Congress president (Rahul Gandhi) wants a larger Opposition consensus on the issue.”
Three prominent regional parties, Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Biju Janata Dal have so far maintained their distance from this initiative, though.
“Efforts are on to bring more parties on board,” said a Congress strategist, explaining why the notice hasn’t been submitted to the Chairman Venkaiah Naidu till Monday.
BJD has steadfastly refused to join the bandwagon against Misra, an Odiya who is also related to a senior party leader. The Trinamool Congress has not made up its mind on the proposal which was first mooted by CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury. The TMC and the CPI (M) are arch rivals. “We haven’t taken a decision yet,” said Trinamool leader Derek O’Brien.
A senior DMK functionary said that the top leadership from Chennai has not approved the party’s participation. “Chennai has to clear such proposals and we haven’t heard from them so far,” he said, asking not to be identified.
Within the Congress quarters too, Hindustan Times learns, there was initial doubt about the merits of the move. One of the top legal brains of the party argued that Congress should not back a CPI (M) proposal and added that unlike the case of Kolkata High Court judge Soumitra Sen (who was impeached by the Rajya Sabha and resigned before the Lok Sabha could do the same), a significant consensus across party lines might not happen in the case of the CJI. The party leadership, however, finally decided to back the proposal.
Majeed Memon, a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP said last Wednesday : “Several Opposition MPs, including me, have signed the petition to remove the Chief Justice.”
Last week, senior advocate and leader of Swraj Abhiyan Party Prashant Bhushan met West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. A Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader confirmed that the meeting was focused exclusively on the possible motion against Misra. Bhushan was not immediately available for comment.
A senior Congress leader pointed out that the list of signs may have to be modified as some members are retiring on Tuesday and their signatures have to be removed from the list.