Opposition Move to Impeach Chief Justice, Jaitley Calls it 'Revenge Petition'

The notice comes a day after an SC bench, headed by CJI Misra, dismissed petitions seeking an independent probe into the death of Judge B.H. Loya.

New Delhi: Capping two weeks of indecision on their part, opposition parties led by the Congress today met vice president and Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu to hand over a notice for impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

According to PTI, over 60 MPs of the Rajya Sabha belonging to seven political parties have signed on to the notice for impeachment of the CJI.

The move comes one day after the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Misra rejected calls for an independent inquiry into the death of judge B.H. Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case.

Hitting back, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley has described the move as a ‘revenge petition’ and the use of impeachment “as a political tool”.

The MPs belong to the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.

The leaders of these parties earlier met in parliament and gave final shape to the notice for impeachment.

After the meeting, the Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, confirmed that a notice for impeachment against CJI was indeed being moved.

Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Kapil Sibal, CPI’s D Raja and KTS Tulsi during a press conference after opposition parties submitted a notice to the vice president Venkaiah Naidu to initiate impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. (Credit: PTI)

Among those who attended the meeting in parliament were Congress leaders Azad, Kapil Sibal and Randeep Surjewala, besides CPI’s D. Raja and the NCP’s Vandana Chavan.

PTI reported said the Trinamool Congress and the DMK, which were initially in favour of the impeachment move against the CJI, are no longer part of it.

Jaitley’s retort

In a written statement, Jaitley said the impeachment of a judge of the Supreme Court was only envisaged in case of his “incapacity” or on “proven misconduct” and the “Congress Party and its friends have started using impeachment as a political tool.”

He said the constitution gave each MP “the judicial power of impeachment” as part of “inter-institutional accountability” and that MPs were expected to “independently review the facts and the evidence.” MPs were not expected to decide matters on party lines or on the basis of a whip.

“Trivialising the use of that power is a dangerous event.  It is not difficult to collect 50 signatures of Rajya Sabha or 100 signatures of Lok Sabha members even on frivolous issues.  To use the power as intimidatory tactics when you neither have a case of “proven misconduct” or the numbers on your side, is a serious threat to judicial independence.”

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP president Amit Shah and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley at BJP headquarters in New Delhi. (Credit: PTI)

Jaitley said the the motion to impeach Justice Misra “is a revenge petition after the falsehood of the Congress Party has been established in the Justice Loya death case.  It is an attempt to intimidate a judge and send a message to other judges, that if you don’t agree with us, 50 MPs are enough for a revenge action. ”

Impeachment process 

The impeachment process. Credit: PRS Legislative Research

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 should be 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 motion would be moved against the chief justice of India.

Article 124(4) of the constitution specifies the procedure for impeachment of a judge:

“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.”

As matters stand, it is unlikely that the parties backing the move to impeach the CJI would be able to muster a two-thirds majority in the Rajya Sabha. In the Lok Sabha, of course, their numbers are totally lacking.

However, the opposition is hoping that invocation of the process, which, if initiated by the vice president, would take several months would render Justice Mishra hors de combat for the 15-odd weeks of his tenure that still remain. Once he retires, the motion would become infructuous.

(With inputs from PTI)