All eyes are on Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu as the Congress and BJP are fighting in public over the impeachment motion of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra. Naidu is likely to form a committee to look into the matter and will decide if there is any merit of ground to take such a major step against CJI Misra.
Now, the big question is what happens if Naidu doesn't accept the petition. Legal experts say that the opposition has an option to go to the Supreme Court in such a high-profile case. It means that the matter will come up again before CJI Deepak Misra and he will decide its fate.
The opposition parties have submitted a petition with the signatures of over 70 members from Rajya Sabha and accused Misra of 'misbehaviour' and 'misusing' authority.
In such a situation it is important to know how a Supreme Court judge can be removed? Article 124(4) of the Constitution lays down the procedure for removal of a judge.
The process is as follows:
Step 1: A removal motion signed by 100 members of Lok Sabha or 50 members of Rajya Sabha has to be submitted to the Speaker of the Lower House or Chairperson (ie Vice President) of the Upper House. This can be in either of the Houses of Parliament.
Step 2: The Speaker/Chairperson can either accept or reject the motion.
Step 3: If the motion is admitted, then the Speaker/ Chairperson forms a three-member committee comprising a senior judge of the Supreme Court, a judge of a high court and a distinguished jurist to investigate the charges leveled against the CJI.
Step 4: If the committee supports the motion, it can be taken up for discussion. It must be passed by a special two-third majority of MPs in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
Here is who said what on the impeachment of CJI Dipak Misra:
It seems like The Aam Aadmi Party is among those who have backed out from supporting the move.
Describing the move a joke, AAP Spokesperson and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said, "For the motion to pass, a two-thirds majority is required in both Houses, and the Opposition does not have the numbers. It will be defeated, and if that happens it will be a joke."
"A day after Supreme Court trashes PIL movers as carrying politically vested interests, it entertains a PIL to gag the media for reporting on CJI’s impeachment! Whose interests are such PIL serving?" the member of Indian National Congress said in a tweet.
"Even on an issue that effects the very edifice of the Judiciary, the two Bhakt channels are running BJP’s discourse instead of informing the people about the reasons for the proposed #Impeachment motion against the CJI," Surjewala wrote in another tweet.
Even on an issue that effects the very edifice of the Judiciary, the two Bhakt channels are running BJP’s discourse instead of informing the people about the reasons for the proposed #Impeachment motion against the CJI.— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) April 20, 2018
The Congress leader said that the notice for the Chief Justice’s removal has been moved with a "heavy heart" as Justice Misra had not "asserted the independence of the judiciary in the face of interference by the executive."
"We wish this day had never come," Sibal said during a press conference.
"As representatives of the people, we are entitled to hold the Chief Justice accountable, just as we are accountable to the people. The majesty of the law is more important than the majesty of any office," he said.
"We hope that a thorough enquiry will be held so that truth alone triumphs. Democracy can thrive only when our judiciary stands firm, independent of the executive, and discharges its constitutional functions honestly, fearless, and with an even hand," Sibal added.
"We have moved a motion for the removal of Chief Justice of India under five grounds of misbehaviour," the leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha said.
"... While submitting the motion to the Rajya Sabha chairman, we requested him we have the number required for the motion to be entertained ... I am sure that the minimum requirement for the motion to be entertained has been met and sure that chairman will take action," Nabi was quoted as saying by NDTV.
The senior Congress leader, however, seemed to disagree with his party colleagues.
"I hope not and believe not… impeachment is too serious a matter to be played with on the grounds of disagreement with any judgment or with any point of view of the court. I am not a party to the discussions that have taken place between the parties therefore for me to say whether the grounds are justified or not would be unfair," News18.com quoted Khurshid.
Describing the move as a political tool of Congress, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, "It is not difficult to collect fifty signatures of Rajya Sabha or hundred signatures of Lok Sabha members even on frivolous issues. To use the power as intimidatory tactics when neither you have a case of 'proven misconduct' or the numbers on your side, is a serious threat to judicial independence."
Impeachment should not be allowed to be used as political tool.— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) April 20, 2018
"My preliminary reaction to the impeachment motion filed today is clear. It is a revenge petition after the falsehood of the Congress Party has been established in the Justice Loya death case. It is an attempt to intimidate a Judge and send a message to other Judges, that if you don’t agree with us, fifty MP’s are enough for a revenge action," he added.
"The charges read out are issues those which have been settled by judicial orders or by precedent. Some issues are stale, trivial and have nothing to do with judicial functions."
SC on public debates over impeachments:
The Supreme Court said the public discussions and statements, including those made by lawmakers, on the impeachment of judges were 'unfortunate' while hearing a petition filed by a Pune-based lawyers' organisation, which has also sought a gag on the media from reporting such statements.
"We are all very disturbed about it," a bench comprising justice AK Sikri and justice Ashok Bhushan said.
The apex court asked attorney general KK Venugopal to assist it in dealing with the plea and the next hearing will take place on May 7.
(With inputs from agencies)