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Congress to move SC against Venkaiah Naidu’s decision to reject notice seeking removal of CJI Dipak Misra

The announcement came within hours of the Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu rejecting the Congress-led Opposition move to remove CJI Dipak Misra

india Updated: Apr 23, 2018 23:05 IST
Moushumi Das Gupta and Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Dipak Misra,impeachment,cji dipak misra impeachment
The Congress-led opposition had moved a motion to remove Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on grounds of of alleged “misbehaviour”. (PTI file photo)

The political fight over an attempt to remove the Chief Justice of India escalated on Monday with Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu, the Vice President of India, rejecting a notice by the Opposition to the effect, and the Congress deciding to appeal his decision in the Supreme Court.

Naidu issued a 10-page order saying the notice — which had the signatures of 64 parliamentarians across seven parties — lacked substantial merit and that initiating a removal proceedings on such basis would “undermine the faith of the common person in the judicial system”.

It is “imperative” that one should have “extraordinary, important and substantial grounds for the removal of a judge,” Naidu said. “MPs who presented the motion are themselves unsure of the charges, as they use words like, ‘may have been’, ‘likely’, ‘appears to be’...” the order read.

Within hours, the Congress called the order “illegal” and said Naidu’s decision had “shattered” the confidence of people.

“To say the least, the order is unprecedented, illegal, ill-advised and hasty,” said Congress leader Kapil Sibal, who is among the MPs who signed the removal petition.

With the Congress approaching the apex court, it has to be seen whether the CJI will, as “master of the roster”, decide who should hear this case, or recuse himself.

A senior government functionary cited the Judges (Inquiry) Act to say that Naidu had “the statutory right to accept or reject” such a notice. “Mere numbers do not set the process in motion,” he said, asking not to be named. That’s the opinion of eminent jurists as well, including Soli Sorabjee and Fali Nariman.

Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Congress of undermining “the dignity of the judiciary” and said the party was “trying to run the country through the courts using false, half-baked and sponsored litigations”.

The Congress and six other opposition parties had on April 20 handed over to Naidu the notice for the CJI’s removal on five grounds of “misbehaviour”.

Naidu announced his rejection of the notice before the Supreme Court convened for the day on Monday.

Interestingly, court proceedings were delayed by around 15 minutes, although there was no explanation for this. The CJI and other judges gather at a customary tea meeting before proceedings begin and the speculation was that this meeting had carried on for longer than usual.

There was also speculation that the other judges had told the CJI that they too would recuse themselves from the case. The Supreme Court had no comments and Hindustan Times could not independently verify either.

This is the first time that a notice seeking proceedings to remove a judge was rejected without being admitted.

Besides the Congress, members of the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Communist Party of India, Nationalist Congress Party and Indian Union Muslim League signed the notice.

A CJI can only be removed for “proven misbehaviour and incapacity”, says Article 124 (4) of the Constitution. At least 50 Rajya Sabha or 100 Lok Sabha members have to sign a plea to begin the lengthy procedure for the removal of the country’s top judge.

First Published: Apr 23, 2018 15:59 IST