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CJI Impeachment Motion: Congress to Challenge Naidu’s Rejection in SC, BJP ‘Thanks’ Him; Legal Fraternity Divided

The Congress leader stressed that never before in India's history had a motion moved by MPs been dismissed at the preliminary stage.

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Updated:April 24, 2018, 11:58 AM IST
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CJI Impeachment Motion: Congress to Challenge Naidu’s Rejection in SC, BJP ‘Thanks’ Him; Legal Fraternity Divided
File photo of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
New Delhi: The Congress on Monday lashed out at Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for rejecting the impeachment notice filed by seven opposition parties against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and said it would move the Supreme Court to challenge the “illegal” order that has “shattered the confidence of people”.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal told reporters that Naidu's order jeopardised the country's legal system and said the government was not keen to see a probe into the case. “The order is unprecedented, illegal, ill-advised and hasty," Sibal said, adding that it had been passed without a full-fledged inquiry.

"We will certainly move a petition in the Supreme Court to challenge this order," Sibal said. "The Congress leader stressed that never before in India's history had a motion moved by MPs been dismissed at the preliminary stage. “The order shattered the confidence of the people and jeopardised the legal system,” he added.

We will ensure the CJI would have nothing to do with this petition, Sibal said. AICC media-in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala also criticised the decision and said it was a fight between forces "rejecting democracy" and voices "rescuing democracy".

Surjewala said within hours of 64 MPs submitting the impeachment notice, Leader of the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had shown "naked prejudice" by calling it a revenge petition, "virtually dictating the verdict" to the Rajya Sabha chairman.

Dipak Misra (1)

In a tweet, Congress spokesperson and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Naidu "expectedly" rejected the impeachment motion against Chief Justice Misra and that too within a day of his return to Delhi.

Naidu rejected the unprecedented impeachment notice given by opposition parties led by the Congress against CJI Misra, saying it lacked substantial merit and that the allegations were neither "tenable nor admissible".

“The motion presented by the MPs indicates a mere suspicion, conjecture or an assumption in the Prasad Education Trust case. The same does not constitute proof beyond a reasonable doubt required to make out a case of proved misbehavior,” the order by Naidu read.

On Sunday, the Vice-President had cut short his visit to Hyderabad and returned to the national capital to set in motion the process of consultations after an impeachment notice was filed against the CJI. According to sources, Naidu held deliberations with a number of constitutional and legal experts, including Attorney General K K Venugopal.

Political Slugfest

The rejection of the motion triggered a political slugfest, with the BJP "thanking" Naidu for warding off an "act of blasphemy" towards the Constitution while several opposition parties saying it showed "a certain degree of non-application of mind" as he did not follow laid-down rules.

As the Congress hit out Naidu, the BJP jumped to his defence and said the Rajya Sabha Chairman's office is not a post office meant to forward the applications it received but it has to apply its mind judiciously which he did. "We thank him. He did not allow his office to be misused," BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said.

She cited Naidu's order in which he referred to use of words like "prime facie" and "may have been" by opposition parties in their charges referring to the CJI to highlight that their allegations indicate a mere suspicion, a conjecture or an assumption against him.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Congress of running the country through courts based on "half-baked, false and sponsored litigations", alleging that it used the death of judge B H Loya as a political tool to settle scores. “The Congress, being defeated by the people repeatedly, can't run the country through corridors of courts based upon half-baked, false and sponsored litigations," he claimed.

In Hyderabad, where he was on Sunday re-elected the general secretary of the CPI(M) for a fresh term, Yechury slammed Naidu's decision. "I am sorry to say that about the honourable Vice-President and Chairman of Rajya Sabha (Naidu), but I think that the methods, that had been very clearly laid down -- both in the constitutional procedures and the rules -- have not been followed," he said.

He said the presiding officer of either House, in which the impeachment motion has been moved, does not have the discretion to independently decide about the validity of the motion. The motion needs to be referred to a three-member committee, which normally should include a Supreme Court judge, a high court chief justice and a jurist, he added.

Legal Fraternity Divided

Eminent jurists like Soli Sorabjee and Fali Nariman and some ex-judges though did not find any fault with Naidu’s decision. Sorabjee and Nariman were of the view that Congress-led opposition had no chance to succeed as issues raised in the impeachment notice against the CJI were not of "sufficient gravity and rightly rejected" by Naidu.

Identical views were expressed by former Supreme Court judge P B Sawant and retired Delhi High Court judge S N Dhingra, who said Naidu must have found that the move was politically motivated and without any proof.

However, there was a political divide among lawyers associated with various parties over the Rajya Sabha Chairman's decision to reject the impeachment notice against the CJI, as they termed the move either as "most perfect" or "erroneous" and "astounding".

While senior advocate and Congress MP KTS Tulsi criticised the Vice President's decision saying it was a serious matter and corruption could not be allowed to grow in the judiciary, senior lawyer and BJP leader Aman Sinha said the notice was rightly rejected with "sound legal reasoning".

Activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who has been leading the campaign against the CJI, said the decision was "unconstitutional" and "political" to protect the CJI.

"After dealing with all five charges individually, the Rajya Sabha chairman has come to a conclusion that they hold no legal merit. They are unsustainable and unjustifiable and therefore the notice for impeachment has been rightly rejected by him on very sound legal reasoning and cogent legal grounds," Sinha said and blamed the Congress for trying to "intimidate the judiciary" by moving the notice.

"As far as impeachment motion is concerned, it was known that it would be defeated. The only aim of the Congress was to intimidate the judiciary and put the integrity of the Supreme Court under cloud," he said.

Bar Council of India chairman, Manan Kumar Mishra, lauded the decision saying it was the "most perfect" decision that has made all "sensitive people" in the country happy.

Opposing Mishra's views, Bhushan said, "It is very astounding that the Vice President decided to reject such a serious impeachment motion signed by 64 MPs of Rajya Sabha containing five very serious charges of misbehaviour.”

"The RS chairman only has to see if the notice was signed by requisite number of people and whether these charges on the face of it amount to misbehaviour or not. He has no business to go into the merits of the charges. That's for the enquiry committee to decide. This has clearly been done at the behest of the government and totally illegal and unconstitutional and malafide and hope it will be challenged by the MPs. It is a political decision to protect the CJI," Bhushan said.

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