New Delhi: A political slugfest has broken out between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and seven opposition parties led by the Congress over the impeachment of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra on grounds of alleged misbehaviour and misuse of authority.
The seven parties met vice-president and Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu on Friday to move a motion seeking the CJI’s impeachment.
After a 40-minute-long meeting with Naidu, opposition leaders said they expected positive action from the Rajya Sabha chairman. The political parties that are part of the move, besides the Congress, are the Nationalist Congress Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Samajwadi Party and Indian Union Muslim League.
Allegations against Misra include his involvement in a conspiracy to pay bribes in relation to a medical admission scam, dealing with a case in which he was likely to fall under the scope of investigation, antedating an administrative order of 6 November 2017 and alleged abuse of administrative power in allocating cases in the Supreme Court. He is also embroiled in a land allotment case in Odisha where the lease of land allotted to him was cancelled by the state government owing to irregularities in an affidavit.
“We had sought an appointment with the Rajya Sabha chairman a week ago. We met him today and moved a motion for impeachment of the Chief Justice of India. Seventy-one members of Parliament (MPs) have signed the motion, although the required number is 50 MPs. We expect positive action," said Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
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.
The Congress-led opposition is expected to hold discussions with other political parties to gather support for the motion. If the move is admitted by the Rajya Sabha chairman, Naidu will set up a three-member committee to look into the allegations levelled by the opposition parties against the CJI .
“The Congress party and its friends have started using impeachment as a political tool. The power of impeachment under our Constitution is part of inter-institutional accountability... Trivialising the use of that power is a dangerous event," finance minister Arun Jaitley wrote in a Facebook post on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court sought the assistance of attorney general K.K. Venugopal on a plea seeking guidelines to regulate the procedure to be followed by MPs who want to remove a judge of the Supreme Court or high court before initiating a motion for impeachment under provisions of the Constitution.
The matter was brought before a bench of justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan who said it was rather “unfortunate", pointing to recent events including public discussions on a likely impeachment motion against CJI Misra.
Section 124(4) of the Constitution outlines the process of impeachment of the CJI on the ground of “proven misbehaviour or incapacity". It holds that a Supreme Court judge can only be removed from office on the basis of an order of the president after it has been addressed by both houses of Parliament and supported by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that house, present and voting.