By Elton Gomes
The Supreme Court declared on Tuesday that Congress withdrew its petition challenging Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu’s decision to reject the impeachment notice against the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal, counsel of the Congress MPs Partap Singh Bajwas and Amee Harshadyay Yajnik stated the petition was being withdrawn as the five-judge bench refused to give details of the administrative order passed in constituting the bench.
Sibal questioned the decision to assign the case to a five-judge bench and said “the Chief Justice can’t pass such orders,” NDTV reported. “There is no judicial order, so who on the administrative side passed the order to refer the case to the five judges? If the Chief Justice did it, then petitioners are entitled to know,” Sibal added.
Justice A.K. Sikri, who was heading the five-judge bench, in turn, questioned Sibal’s intentions by asking if Sibal was “challenging this bench.” Sibal later clarified and told the press that there were “no personal motives” in withdrawing the petition.
Along with Justice A.K. Sikri, the bench comprised of Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana, Arun Mishra, and A.K. Goel. Justice Sikri urged Sibal to argue on the merits of the case, and he said that the court can decide the formation of a bench in matters of “seminal importance.” Justice Goel also said that there is no reason why a five-judge bench should not hear the case directly.
Here’s what happened
On April 20, members from seven opposition parties met Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu seeking the impeachment of CJI Dipak Misra. The opposition leaders stated that they expected a positive reaction from Naidu and alleged Misra was involved in paying bribes, antedating an administrative order, and has abused his administrative power in the Supreme Court.
With the Congress at the forefront, other parties that were part of the impeachment row included the Nationalist Congress Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Samajwadi Party, and Indian Union Muslim League.
Three days later, on April 23, Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu refused to admit the motion moved by the opposition parties, stating that the allegations have a ‘serious tendency’ to weaken the nation’s judiciary.
“I have considered the material contained in the Notice of Motion and reflected upon the inputs received in my interaction with legal luminaries and constitutional experts. I am of the firm opinion that the Notice of Motion does not deserve to be admitted. I refuse to admit the Notice of Motion,” Naidu said.
Naidu rejected the motion as the MPs who were in favour of the motion were also uncertain of the charges against the CJI. In the charges levelled against Misra, there was no credible or verifiable information indicating the CJI’s “misbehaviour” or “incapacity,” which constitute grounds for removal. The Congress then moved to the Supreme Court on May 7 challenging Naidu’s rejection.
Why you should care
The impeachment row has infamously been making headlines for the past few days and is likely to dent Congress’ reputation prior to the Karnataka polls. Finance Minister Arun Jaitely has accused the Congress of adopting a “fringe position” over the impeachment row.
Veteran jurist Fali Nariman questioned the charges levied by the Congress against the CJI, saying that they were not in line with what four judges said during an unprecedented press conference. Nariman said, “This is a horribly black day… The blackest possible day. I have never seen a day like this. In my 67 years, I have never seen a day like this,” as reported by the Indian Express. Nariman also questioned why senior Congress members Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram did not sign the impeachment motion.
Although the Congress along with opposition parties signed an impeachment motion, the lack of watertight evidence resulted in the fiasco surrounding the impeachment.