India Opposition to Take Chief Justice Dispute to Top Court

(Bloomberg) -- India’s opposition parties have vowed to take their controversial bid to initiate an impeachment motion against the country’s chief justice to the Supreme Court.

Led by the Congress Party, the opposition alliance vowed to challenge vice president M. Venkaiah Naidu’s decision to reject their motion to impeach Chief Justice Dipak Misra over allegations that he misused his authority to influence the outcome of politically-sensitive cases.

Naidu, who is also the chairman of the upper house of parliament and served as a cabinet minister under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, rejected the opposition’s motion earlier on Monday, describing the allegations against Misra neither "tenable nor admissible."

"It seems this government is very keen that this must not be allowed to be inquired into," Kapil Sibal, a senior leader of the Congress party, said at a press conference in New Delhi, describing Naidu’s order as illegal. "We will move a petition in the Supreme Court challenging this order."

Lawmakers from seven opposition parties on Friday announced they were trying to impeach Misra for allegedly assigning sensitive cases to particular judges "with the likely intent to influence the outcome." India Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the opposition was using the impeachment process as a "political tool."

The unprecedented attempt to remove a Supreme Court chief justice followed an earlier and equally-unprecedented step by four Supreme Court judges to go public with concerns over Misra’s conduct in January.

Out of Order

The four judges said they had tried to persuade the chief justice that "certain things are not in order" at the court, but that their efforts had failed and they had no choice but to go public. The Supreme Court regularly rules on significant economic, tax and regulatory matters and India’s key equity gauges -- the Sensex and Nifty 50 -- dropped as much as 0.5 percent when the judges spoke in January.

Naidu said he "carefully considered" whether to admit the opposition’s motion, and consulted "legal luminaries" and "constitutional experts."

The five allegations of misconduct in the motion to dismiss Misra related either to "internal judicial processes" or were "unsubstantiated surmises and conjectures which hardly merit or necessitate further investigation." He also said by making these allegations public, the opposition had acted "against propriety and parliamentary decorum" and denigrated the country’s chief justice.

"I am of the firm opinion that the notice of motion does not deserve to admitted," Naidu said.

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