Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu today rejected the notice given by Congress-led Opposition parties for the impeachment of CJI Dipak Misra citing lack of substantial merit in it. After extensive consultations with top legal and constitutional experts, Naidu termed all five allegations made against the CJI as neither 'tenable nor admissible'.
"Going through the five allegations mentioned in the Notice, I am of the view that they are neither tenable nor admissible. The allegations emerging from the present case have a serious tendency of undermining the independence of the judiciary which is the basic tenet of the Constitution of India. Considering the totality of facts, I am of the firm opinion that it is neither legal not desirable or proper to admit the Notion of Motion on any of these grounds," the Vice President said in the order.
Seven opposition parties led by the Congress had last week moved a notice before him for the impeachment of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) on five grounds of "misbehaviour".
Key highlights of the order by Venkaiah Naidu:
#Charges made on suspicion, assumption
#Making rosters an internal matter to be resolved by the SC itself
#None of the five allegations in notice tenable or admissible
#Allegations seriously undermine the independence of the judiciary
#Case under article 124(4) of the constitution not made
#No concrete verifiable imputation
#Opposition notice has no empirical basis
#Satisfied that notice of motion is neither desirable nor proper
Watch video: Vice President rejects impeachment motion against CJI
Venkaiah Naidu also said that addressing the media after moving the impeachment notice against CJI was not correct, and violated parliamentary conduct.
Reacting to the development, Union minister Anantkumar Hegde hailed the Vice President's decision and slammed Congress for filing the impeachment motion.
"Congress needs lessons on Constitution. They suffer from selective amnesia. The Vice President has taken a conscious decision. Congress has lost its game. They're frustrated because they're not in power," Hegde said.
A disappointed Opposition termed the decision 'unfortunate' and claimed that Rajya Sabha chairman has no right to reject the petition.
In a series of tweets, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that 'Constitutional process of impeachment is set in motion with 50 MP’s giving the motion, and 'RS Chairman has no mandate to decide the merits of the motion'.
"RS Chairman can’t decide on merits in absence of quasi judicial or administrative power (M.Krishna Swami’s case). If all charges were to be proved before inquiry as RS Chairman suggests, Constitution & Judges (Inquiry) Act will have no relevance. Don’t muzzle Constitution," Surjewala said.
He further accused the leader of Upper House Arun Jaitley of leading the order through 'prejudicial statements'.
"Within hours of 64 MP’s submitting the impeachment motion, Leader of Rajya Sabha(FM) had expressed naked prejudice by calling it a ‘revenge petition’ virtually dictating the verdict to Rajya Sabha Chairman on that day," he added.
Congress leader PL Punia said the party will seek legal opinion on the matter. "This is a really important matter. We don't know what was the reason for the rejection. Congress and other opposition parties will talk to some legal experts, and take the next step," Punia said.
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The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)'s leader Majeed Menon termed the decision 'unfortunate'. "We don't know on what grounds the Vice President has rejected the motion. The decision is 'unfortunate'," said Menon.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan decried rejection of impeachment motion against CJI by the Vice President.
"What!! VP Naidu rejects impeachment motion against CJI signed by 64 RS MPs! On what grounds? He has no power to say that charges are not made out. That's for the inquiry committee of 3 judges. He only has to see if it's signed by 50 MPs & possibly if charges are of misbehaviour," tweeted Prashant Bhushan.
Defending the order BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said that impeachment motion was a political suicide for Congress.
"He (Naidu) has decided correctly. He need not have taken two days to make the decision. It should've been considered null and void & thrown out from the beginning. Congress committed suicide by doing this," Swamy told media.
Five charges by Opposition:
The motion filed by Congress-led Opposition parties listed five charges of misbehaviour including an alleged conspiracy to pay illegal gratification in a case relating to an educational trust and the manner in which the CJI had dealt with the case by denying permission to the CBI to register an FIR against a judge of the Allahabad High Court when the CBI shared incriminating information.
The second related to the CJI having dealt with the trust case on the administrative side and the third related to alleged antedating of a matter "which is a very serious charge".
The fourth charge related to the CJI having acquired land when he was an advocate by allegedly giving a false affidavit. The allotment of the land was cancelled by an Additional District Magistrate in 1985. The CJI surrendered the land in 2012 after he was elevated to the Supreme Court.
The fifth charge related to alleged abuse of exercise of power by CJI in choosing to send sensitive matters to particular benches by misusing his authority as "Master of the Roster" with the likely intent to influence the outcome.
Unprecedented motion against CJI
This is the first time ever that an impeachment notice has been filed against a sitting CJI. The first case of the impeachment of a Supreme Court judge, Justice V. Ramaswamy, was voted out in the Lok Sabha in the mid-90s. In two other cases, Justice PD Dinakaran of the Sikkim High Court and Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court resigned before the impeachment motion could be voted. An impeachment motion has to be passed by both the Houses of Parliament with a special two-thirds majority.