The impeachment move

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“People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.”

– Stephen Hawking

 

 In an unprecedented step, seven opposition parties led by the Congress on Friday moved a notice for the impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, accusing him of ‘misbehaviour’ and ‘misuse’ of authority. Levelling five allegations, leaders of the seven opposition parties met Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, who is also the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and handed over the notice of impeachment bearing signatures of 64 MPs and seven former MPs, who recently retired. 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. This is the first time that a notice of impeachment against a sitting CJI has been moved, even though there have been cases of impeachment motions against high court judges. The notice for impeachment comes a day after the Supreme Court rejected a bunch of petitions seeking an independent investigation into the death of judge BH Loya, who was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. Vice-President and Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu to whom the Opposition submitted the impeachment motion, which requires a minimum of 50 members of Parliament to pass, will definitely take some time in deciding whether there are sufficient grounds to set up an inquiry into charges levelled against the CJI. If Naidu, who is expected to consult experts to ascertain if the evidence is enough for the removal of a judge, is not convinced, the complaint will not proceed any further.

The moot question is – do five reasons cited by the Congress-led Opposition group against CJI Misra have a sufficient ground for impeachment? The opposition parties will need the support of at least two-thirds of the MPs in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha for the impeachment motion to go through. Congress also knows the impeachment move will fall flat as the joint Opposition does not have the requisite number. There is an air of tentativeness about the chargesheet drawn up against CJI Misra — his alleged involvement in a case relating to an educational trust that allegedly involved the payment of illegal gratification, his acquisition of land 39 years ago and surrendered later etc.

The one of the five grounds alleges that CJI has allocated cases to fellow judges with some ‘dastardly’ purpose in mind, abusing his master of the roster position. A senior jurist Fali S Nariman has said Government of India Act in 1935 gave CJI the authority for being Master of the Roster and he certainly could not be impeached for invoking the authority the position gave to him. The question also boils down to: Would the Congress/Opposition have moved the motion to impeach the CJI if the Judge Loya case verdict had gone in favour of the PIL-petitioners? So, the timing and the manner in which the impeachment notice was brought about has rightly been described by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley as a “revenge petition”. At the end of the day, the impeachment motion only points to the fact that if a CJI and the Supreme Court use their ‘discretion’ to rule cases in favour a particular party then it is ‘okay’ but if the judgement goes against a party, then the CJI has ‘misbehaved’.

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