Impeachment move rejected by Venkaiah but message gone already

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Vice President Venkaiah Naidu who is also the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, on April 23 rejected the impeachment motion filed on April 20 by 60 members of the upper House against the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra creating heartburns among seven parties who supported it. The BJP lauded the action of the Vice President and said it was the revengeful action of the opposition parties led by the Congress with political motives. The Chairman of the Rajya Sabha said in the absence of credible and verifiable information placed before him it would have been inappropriate and irresponsible to accept the statement lacking material to prove the misbehaviour or incapacity on the part of the CJI. Congress leader Kapil Sibal said at this stage the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha could not go into the merits of the charges. He should see only whether the signatories are the members of the House or not. He should form the three-member committee that would go into the substance of the charge. Prashanth Bhushan, a senior lawyer, said the Vice President had no power to say that the charges were not made out. He should see whether adequate members have signed the motion. In the present case, inquiry is the only way. Supporting the other side taken by Venkaiah Naidu, eminent jurist Fali S Nariman said the issues raised in the impeachment motion were not of sufficient gravity and therefore the motion was rightly rejected. The lawyers are divided whether the rejection was within the law or not. The impeachment can be viewed under the terms and conditions and powers constitutionally conferred on the Vice President in the Rajya Sabha and Speaker in the Lok Sabha as stipulated by the Judges Inquiry Act 1968. In the Rajya Sabha 50 members are sufficient to move the motion whereas in the Lok Sabha the number is 100. As far as the number of signatories is concerned, the present motion is valid.

On April 20, it was the Congress led motion when six other parties NCP, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, CPI, CPM and Indian Union Muslim League supported it. The suspicious manner in which the case of Prasad Education Trust in which bribery charges were alleged was dealt by the CJI, January 12 press conference in which four senior most judges next to the CJI levelled charges of unjustified allotment of cases to junior judges by the CJI, allegedly false affidavit given by the CJI for acquiring land when he was an advocate, and two other charges totalling five were mentioned in the impeachment plea. When the CJI bench handed down its verdict rejecting a plea to probe the suspicious death of the Judge B H Loya, these parties made up their mind to file the impeachment notice. However, the verdict which was the subject of heated debate in media was not listed in the motion. Loya’s case was also referred to by the four senior judges in their unprecedented move of addressing the press. The case was referred to a junior judge by the CJI. Then afterwards the case was heard by the division bench headed by the CJI. While the verdict rejecting the inquiry pleas attracted flak from imminent lawyers, the way of argument by the bench surpassed the comprehension of a common man.

The Congress announced that it would approach the Supreme Court against the decision of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and then it would be heard by the judge next to the CJI. Whatever may be the fate of the motion, the political parties which are signatories to the motion, have sent the message that constitutional institutions were allegedly subordinating themselves to the ruling party at the centre, the dangerous trends for the democracy. A large section of the people irrespective of their party affiliations has understood the gravity of the situation and the pressure under which these parties filed the motion.

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