CJI Impeachment: Prashant Bhushan dismisses BJP’s “revenge” charge

In a video statement on Sunday, April 22, lawyer Prashant Bhushan refuted BJP’s charge that the impeachment motion against CJI was a “revenge petition” after the Judge Loya verdict

Photo courtesy: YouTube
Photo courtesy: YouTube
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NH Web Desk

Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, in a video statement posted on his YouTube channel on Sunday, April 22, refuted BJP’s charge that the impeachment motion moved by 64 Opposition MPs against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra was a “revenge petition” after the Judge Loya verdict. Bhushan pointed out that the Judge Loya verdict was delivered five days after the Opposition requested the Rajya Sabha Chairman for time to present the impeachment motion.

The Opposition MPs had moved the impeachment motion on the following five grounds:

  1. CJI Dipak Misra’s conduct was not becoming of a Chief Justice of India (CJI). He was alleged to be a beneficiary of Prasad Education Trust scam. Since his name emerged in the matter, there is a need to investigate into it
  2. He is accused of backdating
  3. As the ‘master of roster’ he abused his administrative authority by arbitrarily assigning sensitive cases to select judges / benches
  4. He had violated administrative and judicial norms when the issue of Prasad Education Trust reached the Supreme Court. He has presided over almost every bench which had dealt with the case. Thus, violated the first principle of the Code of Conduct for judges
  5. The motion also alleged misconduct by the CJI in acquisition of land, attaching a fake affidavit and surrendering the land only after becoming Supreme Court judge in 2013

On Monday, Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu rejected the impeachment motion. Prashant Bhushan in his video statement had also explained both the procedure for impeachment of a judge and procedure of consideration of an impeachment motion by the Rajya Sabha Chairman. Here follow excerpts from Bhushan’s video statement:

“On Friday, 64 Rajya Sabha MPs from seven political parties presented an impeachment motion against CJI in front of Vice President Venkaiah Naidu. There are five charges in this impeachment motion. The question is, what is the procedure of the impeachment motion? According to the law, as it is mentioned in the Judges Inquiry Act, when the motion signed by 50 Rajya Sabha MPs is presented to the Vice President [who is the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha], or signed by 100 Lok Sabha MPs to the Lok Sabha Speaker, then they [Rajya Sabha Chairman of Lok Sabha Speaker] have to constitute an inquiry committee of three judges—one sitting Supreme Court judge, one sitting Chief Justice of a High Court and an eminent jurist—and they inquire [about] the charges. If after the inquiry [the judge] is found guilty, the matter is sent to both the houses of Parliament for voting, where two-thirds majority is required to pass the impeachment motion and for the removal of the judge.

But people in the government are saying that it is a revenge impeachment because the Supreme Court ruled in the Judge Loya matter that the PIL meant ‘Political Interest Litigation’. The fact is that the Judge Loya judgement was delivered on Thursday [April 19], but five days before that Opposition had requested the Vice President for time to present the impeachment motion.”

Prashant Bhushan: “Impeachment is always political”

“The government is also saying that the Vice President can reject the petition. On what basis can he reject it? He can not say that in his opinion the charges are not true, since it is the work of the inquiry committee. The Vice President can check if 50 MPs have signed or not, but more than 50 MPs has gone to meet him personally and 64 MPs across seven political parties have signed the petition. Secondly, he can check if the charges include the charge of misbehaviour or not. If prima facie misbehaviour charges are there and it is signed by 50 MPs, then he has to form an inquiry committee. He does not have a second choice.

The government is saying that it is just a ‘political impeachment’. Impeachment is always political, only MPs can do it and the voting takes place in Parliament, then what other way is there to move the impeachment motion? If a judge misbehaves, what can be done against him? We are saying it for years that it is a political process. It’s not good because political parties and MPs fear presenting an impeachment motion against a judge and especially the CJI because cases relating to them are pending and they fear that those cases will be damaged if they sign on an impeachment motion. So it becomes difficult and it is not the ideal process. But what is the other option today?”

Prashant Bhushan: Could impeachment procedure be finished before CJI retires?

“The next question is, can the procedure of impeachment be finished before the CJI retires in October? It definitely can because the impeachment motion itself includes evidences for three out of the five charges. In the medical college charge, the CBI has already collected evidence and that has to be asked for. And for the back-dating of memorandum, the registry has to be enquired. All of this process can be finished within a month from when the inquiry committee is formed.

The last question is, during the time the matter of impeachment is pending, should Chief Justice Dipak Misra use his post and powers? Should he be exercising his judicial and administrative power till the time the matter is pending? When there is a serious charge that he is misusing his master of roster power, then the propriety demands that till the time the matter is not closed, he should at least stop exercising his administrative powers. Even if he still sits in the court, but the decision of assigning benches for the cases should be left to a committee of the five senior-most judges after him.

It is a very serious matter which puts a question mark on the freedom and dignity of the judicial system. An inquiry committee must be formed instantly in the impeachment motion and the matter should be inquired instantly.”

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