Rajya Sabha Chairman Naidu rejects opposition's impeachment motion against CJI
In a significant but not entirely unexpected blow to the opposition, Vice President and Rajya Sabha (RS) Chairman Venkaiah Naidu has rejected its impeachment motion against Chief Justice (CJI) Dipak Misra. According to reports, Naidu took the decision after consulting several experts, including Attorney General KK Venugopal and former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subhash Kashyap, among others. The motion listed five allegations against Misra.
Two months ago, Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan Lokur called a press conference and alleged the SC's freedom and integrity have been thrown into uncertainty. Among other allegations, they accused Misra of abusing his position of power to assign important cases to select judges. "Let the nation decide" if Misra should be impeached, they added.
After much discussion, Congress formally started collecting signatures for a motion for Misra's removal last month based on the judges' allegations. The motion accuses Misra of not acting on the complaints of the four judges, conspiring in the illegal licensing of a private medical college, acquiring land illegally when he was a lawyer, and damaging the credibility of the SC's institutional autonomy, among others.
The motion was backed by several parties including CPI, CPI(M), NCP, RJD, Samajwadi Party, BSP and Muslim League. Trinamool Congress, however, refrained. It was submitted a day after the SC refused a probe on Judge BH Loya's death, a key issue raised by the judges.
The move didn't garner much support from luminaries, including former president of the Bar Association of India Fali Nariman. "You can impeach him for taking money or something else, but not for saying I am Master of the Roster," he said. Moreover, many of their charges were different than what the judges had said and not enough grounds for impeachment, experts said.
Congress had said that if the petition is rejected, it might move the SC. "The chairman's decision is open to being challenged. It is bound to go for a judicial review," a party leader said. More than aiming his actual removal, it was trying to build "moral pressure" on Misra hoping he would step aside from judicial duty if the motion was moved.