In an unprecedented move, the Congress and six other opposition parties on Friday moved a notice for the impeachment of Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra, accusing him of five counts of "misbehaviour" and "misusing" authority.
The impeachment notice comes a day after the Supreme Court rejected a bunch of petitions seeking an independent probe into the death of Judge B H Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.
The opposition parties met Vice President and Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu and handed over a notice for the impeachment of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) with signatures of 64 MPs of the Upper House.
No Chief Justice has ever been impeached in India and any decision on the notice by the Opposition parties against the CJI is likely to be taken by the Vice President following legal consultations.
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Listing five allegations of "misbehaviour" against Misra, Congress leader Kapil Sibal, at a press conference, said the notice for impeachment of the CJI has been moved with a heavy heart.
"As representatives of the people, we are entitled to hold the Chief Justice accountable, just as we are accountable to the people. The majesty of the law is more important than the majesty of any office," he said.
The opposition parties also demanded a probe against the CJI.
"We hope that a thorough enquiry will be held so that truth alone triumphs. Democracy can thrive only when our judiciary stands firm, independent of the executive, and discharges its constitutional functions honestly, fearless, and with an even hand," Sibal said.
He further said, "When SC judges themselves believe", the judiciary's independence is under threat, "alluding to the functioning of the CJI, should we stand still and do nothing".
While the notice for impeachment bears 71 signatures, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said they have requested the chairman to exclude the names of seven of them as they have retired from the Upper House. The minimum requirement to move a notice for impeachment was 50 members in the Rajya Sabha.
"We have moved a motion for removal of Chief Justice of India under five grounds of misbehaviour," he said.
The five charges levelled against the CJI in the notice include "conspiracy to pay illegal gratification" in the Prasad Education Trust case and denial of permission to proceed against a retired high court judge in the same matter.
Another charge listed by the opposition parties pertains to a piece of land which the CJI acquired as an advocate by giving a "false affidavit".
The MPs who signed the notice belong to the Congress, the NCP, the CPI-M and CPI, the SP, the BSP and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). The leaders of these parties earlier met in Parliament and gave the final shape to the notice for impeachment.
Also Read: 'CJI Dipak Misra violated constitutional norms': Congress-led Oppn after giving notice for impeachment to RS chairman
Among those who attended the meeting in Parliament were Congress leaders Azad, Sibal and Randeep Surjewala, besides CPI's D Raja and NCP's Vandana Chavan. The opposition alleged that sensitive cases were assigned to handpicked judges.
Some of these allegations were also raised in January by four top judges of the Supreme Court who had held a press conference.
An impeachment motion in the Rajya Sabha has to be supported by at least 50 MPs of the Upper House, while the number of MPs supporting such a motion in the Lok Sabha is 100.
Once the notice for impeachment is submitted to the Rajya Sabha chairman, he will ascertain whether there is merit or ground for moving such a motion.
In case he finds merit, then he may form a committee to look into it, else he can reject it.
If moved, this will be the first time ever in the country's history that an impeachment would be moved against the Chief Justice of India.