Leaders of seven political parties met the Vice President of India and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu to file an impeachment motion seeking the removal of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
This is the first time in the history of independent India that a motion seeking the removal of the chief justice of India has been filed.
‘’Since Chief Justice Dipak Misra was appointed to this high office, there have been situations when questions have been raised about the manner in which he has dealt with certain cases and taken certain administrative decisions. There have been internal rumblings resulting in open discord amongst judges in the Supreme Court’’ said the press statement read out by senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal while addressing the press about the decision.
Leaders of opposition parties present in the press briefing also referred to a recent press conference addressed by four senior judges of the Supreme Court in which they had raised concerns over the manner of functioning of the top court. The judges had also criticised the allocation of cases by the chief justice.
‘’When the judges of the Supreme Court themselves believe that the judiciary’s independence is under threat and democracy in peril, alluding to the functioning of the office of the chief justice of India, should the nation stand still and do nothing? Should the people of this country allow the institution to diminish and not protect it both from within and without? That is what we were confronted with when contemplating action to ensure the independence of the institution that protects the rights of citizens and is the arbiter of the fate of the democracy we cherish. The choice was not easy because either way, the repercussions are serious,’’ says the press statement.
The impeachment motion against the chief justice has been signed by 71 members of the Rajya Sabha of which 7 retired recently. They belong to seven political parties - Congress, NCP, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samajwadi Party, Communist Party of India, CPI (M) and Muslim League, said a political leader involved in the process. BloombergQuint has not been able to verify this with each party.
A Judge of the Supreme Court shall not be removed from his office except by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. - Constitution of India
The impeachment motion is based on five allegations of misbehaviour by the chief justice, said the press statement.
- The first charge relates to the conspiracy to pay illegal gratification by persons in relation to the Prasad Education Trust case and the manner in which the case was dealt with by the chief justice.
- The second charge relates to the chief Justice having dealt on the administrative as well as judicial side with a writ petition that sought an investigation into the matter of Prasad Education Trust. Even though he was likely to fall within the scope of investigation.
- The third charge also pertains to the Prasad Education Trust matter in which it has been alleged that the chief justice antedated a note to influence the allocation of a case to a particular bench.
- The fourth charge against the chief justice is that he improperly acquired and held on to a piece of land and surrendered it only in 2012 after he was elevated to the Supreme Court.
- The fifth charge pertains to the alleged abuse of power by the chief justice in choosing to send sensitive cases to particular benches by misusing his authority as Master of the Roster with the likely intent to influence the outcome.
BloombergQuint has not verified these charges nor been able to seek comment from the Chief Justice or his office.
Speaking to BloombergQuint, former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee said impeachment is not the answer. “This is only to browbeat the judges. To send the message to judges that if your judgement are not to our liking, then it will have to face the embarrassment of the impeachment process.”
The motion could not be passed because the opposition does not have the numbers, Sorabjee said, adding that the move will hurt the confidence of citizens on free and fair administration of justice in the Supreme Court. “This is meaningless. It should be a proven judicial misbehaviour. There is no misbehaviour in this case.”