Dipak Misra impeachment petition: CJI will not be judge in own case, nor will the four rebel judges

New Delhi: A petition on the impeachment move against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, which was rejected recently by Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, will be heard by a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court.

The petition has been filed by the Congress, which says Naidu’s decision was “illegal and arbitrary” and taken in a “cavalier, cryptic and abrupt manner”, without an inquiry. The judges who will hear the petition are Justices AK Sikri, SA Bobde, NV Ramana, Arun Mishra and AK Goel. Justices Bobde and Ramana are both in line for the post of Chief Justice. Justice Sikri, who will head the bench, is number six in seniority.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who is also a signatory to the impeachment notice, had sought urgent listing of the matter before the court of Justice Jasti Chelameswar. Sibal contended before the judges that since the notice was against the CJI himself, hence Misra should direct its listing before the senior-most judge after him – that is, Justice Jasti Chelameswar.

Asked why the matter should be listed before Che-lameswar’s court, Sibal, who was assisted by advocate Prashant Bhushan, said: “It can’t be listed anywhere else. A person cannot be a judge in his own cause.’’ In response to Sibal’s argument, the judges replied that the petition should be brought before the Chief Justice, whose role as master of the roster — the one to decide on assigning of cases — had been defined.

Finally, in the evening, it was confirmed that the Chief Justice will not hear the petition, and neither will the four judges who rank right after him, including Justice Che-lameswar, since they had publicly criticised him and accused him of abusing his position as master of the roster.

The petition has sought quashing of the Rajya Sabha Chairman’s order rejecting the impeachment notice and has urged the Apex Court to direct Naidu to constitute a committee as envisaged under the Judges Inquiry Act to probe the grounds on which the removal of the CJI was sought. Sibal told the bench headed by Justice Chelameswar, which also included Justice S K Kaul, that rejection of the impeachment notice raises “serious constitutional issues” involving interpretation of constitutional provisions, as the Rajya Sabha Chairman cannot summarily dismiss it on the ground of “no proof of misconduct.”

Also read: 2 Opposition MPs move SC challenging Venkaiah Naidu’s dismissal of CJI Impeachment Notice
The petition has been filed in the name of Congress MPs Partap Singh Bajwa and Amee Yajnik. It contends that the Chairman has no option but to set up the inquiry committee, once the judge’s removal motion is signed by the requisite number of 50 MPs. It points out that 64 sitting MPs of Congress and six other parties had signed the notice.

Besides challenging the Chairman’s decision, the petition also assails Section 3(1) of the Judges Inquiry Act that vests discretion in him to reject a notice for removal of a judge. The petition contents that this provision pertains to the genuineness and authenticity of the signatures to the notice of motion and cannot extend to going into the merit of the motion.

The petitioners have also questioned the Chairman’s claim that he concluded the allegations against CJI Dipak Misra as baseless after meeting the legal luminaries and experts.

“The Motion was presented on 20.04.2018 and the impugned order was passed on 23.04.2018 at around 9.30 a.m. From the reports which are in public domain, the Hon‘ble Chairman was not in New Delhi for a good part of the weekend of 21st and 22nd April, 2018. In these circumstances, to say that he had consulted legal luminaries, constitutional experts, former Secretary Generals, former Law Officers, Law Commission Members and eminent Jurists and also had personal conversations with them does not appear to be probable.”

The petition goes on to assert that the Chairman’s order was based on political considerations as “one of the charges against the Chief Justice is that he has been partial in assigning political sensitive cases pertaining to the ruling party before particular benches in order to get a predetermined outcome.”


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