Opposition makes renewed efforts to ‘remove’ CJI Dipak Misra
Several Opposition leaders intensified their efforts to arrive at a common position to give a notice for a motion for the removal of the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, leaders of several political parties said on Tuesday. A Rajya Sabha MP said that he and a number of others had signed a petition in this regard.
At the same time, however, there also appeared to be differences within the Opposition ranks -- including within the Congress -- on how to proceed on the motion. The Opposition does not have the numbers to remove the CJI even if all other requirements of a complex constitutional process are met. The proposal had been initially mooted after four Supreme Court judges spoke out against the CJI’s use of his position as the master of the roster in January.
Majeed Memon, a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP, said: “Several Opposition MPs, including me, have signed the petition to remove the Chief Justice.”
On Tuesday, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee met Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate and leader of the Swaraj Abhiyan party, who has taken a strong public position against the CJI. The two, a Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader confirmed, focused exclusively on the possible motion to remove Misra, with Bhushan making a strong case for it to Banerjee. Bhushan was not available for comments.
A draft explanatory note -- with five specific charges against the CJI -- was doing the rounds on Tuesday evening among opposition MPs in Delhi. HT could not independently confirm the origin or veracity of the note.
A top Opposition leader, who is a key figure in pushing the motion, but spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “I can tell you that we are seriously considering the move. We have discussed this with Congress as well as a set of regional parties including the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). By Friday, you will have a sense of whether we will go ahead with the motion.” If it happens, this will be the first time any motion to remove a sitting Chief Justice would be moved in Parliament.
“The Congress has come out with an impeachment petition to which my party including myself became associated. Other opposition parties have also shown inclination to support it. This is a fierce battle for purity of justice, truth and therefore there cannot be any compromise,” Memon said. But when asked if the Congress had drafted the removal motion, party’s communication in charge Randeep Surjewala said, “I don’t think this has any weight.”
But a top leader, who is central to the Congress’s parliamentary strategy, confirmed that the issue was under discussion. Two schools of thought within the party were apparent. “Some, like me, believe that we should not get involved. This will open up a Pandora’s box and will make us appear anti-judiciary,” said a leader who is also an eminent legal figure. But there are others who believe that the motion itself -- even if it has no chance of passage – would act as a “deterrent and pressure point” to ensure that the executive cannot influence the judiciary.
A Biju Janata Dal leader said that the party is unlikely to support the motion.
Government leaders declined to comment on the Opposition’s initiative for impeachment of the Chief Justice. “How do we react when there seems to be a confusion within the Opposition itself?” a senior minister said.
The removal of the Chief Justice - or any judge - is a lengthy constitutional process. To submit a removal motion itself requires the support of at least 50 MPs in the Rajya Sabha or 100 in the Lok Sabha. The Chair/Speaker has to then decide whether to admit it and, if it is admitted, constitute a three-member committee to investigate the charges. If the committee finds the judge to be guilty, the House can take up the motion for consideration. Once the house, in which it was originally admitted, passes it with a special majority, it then goes to the other house, which has to pass it with a special majority as well. An address for the removal of the judge is then presented to the president, who then passes an order.