Move to impeach CJI likely next week
Sources in different opposition parties confirmed on Saturday that notice to impeach Chief Justice India Dipak Misra could be moved as early as next week
The move to impeach the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra is very much ‘ alive’, say sources close to several opposition parties. The notice, they claimed, could be moved as early as next week beginning Monday.
The impeachment notice can be served in either House of Parliament but require signature of 50 MPs in the Rajya Sabha and 100 MPs in the Lok Sabha. Given the depleted strength of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, chances are that the notice will be submitted in the Rajya Sabha.
The chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu in this case, and the Speaker in the Lok Sabha have, however, the discretion to accept or reject the notice. Almost certain that the notice will be rejected, these opposition parties plan to move the Supreme Court against the ‘ administrative decision’ of the presiding officer or officers in rejecting the notice.
In the unlikely event of the notice being accepted, the presiding officer is expected to form a three-member committee comprising a judge each from the Supreme Court and a high court besides an eminent jurist to study the notice. If the committee endorses the notice, the process of impeachment is initiated in the House. In both the Houses, it then requires to be passed by a ‘ special majority’ with two-thirds of the members voting.
The opposition appears irked at attempts by the ruling party to paint the CJI as a patriotic judge, who had upheld the death sentence of Yaqub Memon in the Bombay blast case and who had made it mandatory to sing the national anthem in cinema halls.
Members of Parliament NH spoke to felt that while it was unfortunate, the CJI has brought this upon himself by not standing up to the Government. Accusing the CJI of compromising with the independence of the judiciary, they pointed out the letters addressed to the CJI by sitting judges Justice Jasti Chelameswar and Justice Kurian Joseph. In both the letters, the judges point to growing interference in the judiciary by the Government and the CJI’s failure to resist it.
Under the Constitution, however, a Supreme Court judge can be impeached only because of ‘proved misbehaviour’ or ‘incapacity’.
A draft of the notice accessed by the website Bar & Bench indicates that the CJI’s role in the Prasad Educational Trust case forms the basis for impeachment. The Central Bureau of Investigation had arrested last year several people including a retired Odisha High Court judge for favouring Prasad Educational Trust, which manages a medical college, the recognition of which was cancelled by the Medical Council of India.
The CBI’s FIR had spoken of evidence that a senior Supreme Court judge was to be paid ‘prasad’ to influence the verdict on an appeal filed by the Trust. But despite the arrest of a high court judge and the insinuations by the CBI, the apex court led by CJI Misra did not allow the petition seeking a special, court-monitored probe into the scandal.
The CJI has also been in the eye of the storm ever since the four senior most judges in the Supreme Court after the CJI held an unprecedented press conference in January to say that democracy was threatened and not all was right in the Supreme Court. Since then two other sitting judges of the Supreme Court, Justice Chelameswar and Justice Kurian Joseph have also written letters to the CJI complaining of growing interference by the Government in the judiciary.