The motion by 64 Rajya Sabha MPs to impeach the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra was dismissed by Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu, who is also the chairman of the upper house of parliament. Naidu pointed out that he relied on the material in the Notice of Motion and discussions with legal luminaries to come to the conclusion.
Here are the reasons, as mentioned in Naidu’s letter, for dismissing the motion:
- Article 124(4) and Article 217 of the Constitution require a test to be applied for such a motion – if every statement stated in the notice is believed to be true, would it still amount to a case of “proved misbehaviour”.
- Article 124(4) uses two expressions for consideration of any such motion: “proved misbehaviour” and “incapacity”. The intent, gravity and onus are much higher for this versus proving misconduct. The prefis “proved” places an obligation for actually proving the misbehaviour before the parliamentary process for removal of a judge can be started. Naidu relied upon the 2010 Supreme Court’s judgment in Mehar Singh Saini case to make this argument.
- And since the members who have moved the motion are unsure of their own case, the requirement to accept it is not fulfilled. This, because the motion uses language like – “the facts and circumstances relating to the Prasad Education Trust case show prima facie evidence suggesting that the Chief Justice of India may have been involved in a conspiracy of paying illegal gratification…”; “…the Chief Justice of India appears to have anti-dated an administrative order”. Such phrases, the dismissal letter states, indicate a mere suspicion, a conjecture or an assumption.
- Because it is so, there’s no proof beyond reasonable doubt which is required to make a case of proved misbehaviour under Article 124(4).
- Either the allegations are within judicial domain and concern the internal judicial process, for instance, allocation of cases to the Supreme Court benches, or there are unsubstantiated surmises and conjectures which hardly merit or necessitate further investigation.
- Finally, various Supreme Court judgments have emphasised that the foundation of an independent judiciary is the trust and confidence of the people. For instance, in the 2002 Arundhati Roy judgment.
If such confidence is shaken or broken, the confidence of the common man in the institution of judiciary and democratic set-up is likely to be eroded which, if not checked, is sure to be disastrous for the society.Letter From Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President
In the end, the dismissal letter notes that “it is imperative that we should have extraordinary, important and substantial grounds for the removal of a judge” and the notice of motion fails to meet this test.
The maintainability of any plea against the Vice President’s decision will be a “serious concern”, Sidharth Luthra, senior advocate of the Supreme Court told BloombergQuint.
In this case, the Speaker has given an order and in my view, the first issue will be, can this at all be subject to judicial review because in Sarojini Ramaswamy it’s very clear. The line in Para 95 says the process will end there if the Speaker rejects the motion. That being the situation, I think if a challenge is sought to be laid, you really have to get over the previous constitutional bench decision and maintainability will, according to me, be a serious concern.Sidharth Luthra, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court
Watch the full interview with Sidharth Luthra here.