Opposition leaders speak to the media at a press conference after seven opposition parties led by the Congress submitted to vice president and Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu a notice seeking the impeachment of Chief Justice of India, in New Delhi on Friday.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)
Opposition leaders speak to the media at a press conference after seven opposition parties led by the Congress submitted to vice president and Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu a notice seeking the impeachment of Chief Justice of India, in New Delhi on Friday.(Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

Oppn move to impeach CJI politically motivated, might not succeed: Constitutional experts

Commenting on the Congress-led move to submit a notice seeking the removal of CJI, eminent jurist Soli Sorabje says this is the worst that could happen to the independence of the judiciary.
By Press Trust of India | Press Trust of India, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 21, 2018 01:24 PM IST

The unprecedented move by the Congress-led opposition to impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra “smacked of political overtones” rather than any “misbehaviour” and “misuse” of authority, and it might not succeed in Parliament, constitutional experts felt on Friday.

Levelling allegations, leaders of the seven opposition parties met vice president M Venkaiah Naidu, who is also the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and handed over the notice of impeachment bearing signatures of 64 MPs and seven former MPs who recently retired.

The move, which came a day after an apex court bench headed by the CJI rejected the pleas for a probe into special CBI judge BH Loya’s death, was termed “motivated” and “political” by eminent jurists such as Soli Sorabjee, former high court judges SN Dhingra and Ajit Kumar Sinha and senior advocate Vikas Singh.

Sorabjee, who was attorney general during the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, made a scathing attack on the opposition’s decision to go for impeachment of the CJI, saying, “This is the worst that could happen to the independence of the judiciary.”

He said Friday’s event would shake the confidence and faith of the people in the judiciary.

Sorabjee’s view was shared by Justice Dhingra, who said it is an attempt to gain political mileage.

Apparently referring to the controversial January 12 press meet by four senior-most apex court judges -- J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph -- who raised issues that were reflected in the impeachment notice, he said discontent among the judges of the top court did not justify the move.

“The impeachment notice is motivated and the MPs want political mileage knowing that they do not have the numbers to impeach the chief justice. Discontentment among judges does not mean you initiate the process of impeachment. Discontentment is a part of life,” the former judge said.

Justice Sinha and senior lawyer Vikas Singh termed it a “sad day” for the judiciary and “just a reaction” to Thursday’s verdict of the Supreme Court dismissing the petitions for a probe into alleged mysterious death of judge Loya, who was hearing Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.

Terming it a sorry state of affairs, Sorabjee told a TV channel that there was no ground to impeach the CJI and the judiciary should sort out its problems itself without allowing politicians to get into them.

“This is the worst thing that could happen to the independence of the judiciary. Please don’t affect the public faith in the judiciary,” he said.

Reactions poured in after the opposition parties moved impeachment notice, accusing the CJI of “misbehavior” and “misuse” of authority.

Coming out in support of Justice Misra, Sorabjee said a judge cannot be impeached merely because of 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.

“If you don’t agree with an order, you impeach him? This has set a very bad precedent and I am totally against it. I am very distressed that it happened in our country,” the former AG said.

On the issue of allocation of benches by the CJI, Sorabjee said, “After all he is the master of the roster. He knows which case should be sent to which bench. I don’t understand how any judge can say that certain cases should be allocated to me or us unless you find there is a definite policy.”

Vikas Singh also said the allegations levelled against the CJI were not serious enough to impeach him.

“It is a sad day as it comes a day after the judge Loya judgement delivered by the Supreme Court. There are not even serious allegations, still the notice has been moved. It is dangerous as such frivolous motions can be carried out if they (MPs) had the numbers to impeach a judge,” he said.

Agreeing with him, Justice Sinha said, “The issues have been going on for the last one-two months and got revived yesterday with the judgement of the apex court in judge Loya matter. This (impeachment move) prima facie appears to be a reaction by the people, who want to impeach the judge, because of yesterday’s verdict.”

An impeachment motion in the Rajya Sabha has to be supported by at least 50 MPs, while that in the Lok Sabha should have the backing of 100 MPs.

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