Moving an impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, parliamentarians from seven opposition parties led by the Congress have listed five allegations against the top judge. The motion signed by 71 members of Rajya Sabha has been submitted to Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu who is also the chair of the upper house.
If rioters are being acquitted, murderers run free and cases against rapists are being withdrawn without reason, then its really doubtful that the CJI will get impeached. But to go down as the first Chief Justice of India against whom impeachment was set in motion, is quite remarkable an achievement that will ensure Dipak Misra a page in the history book.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today accused the Congress party of trivializing the power of impeachment and using it as a political tool. In a scathing Facebook post, the senior BJP leader said the 114-page judgment in the Judge Loya death case authored by Justice D Y Chandrachud on behalf of the three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court “exposes every facet of the conspiracy” to generate falsehood as propaganda in the public and political space.
The charges leveled against Misra include his conduct in the Medical Council of India scam case, his decision as master of the roster and his ownership of a plot of land that he acquired using a “false affidavit.”
Here are the charges leveled according to the statement issued by Opposition:
1. The first charge leveled against the CJI by the opposition parties is a “conspiracy to pay illegal gratification” in the Prasad Education Trust case and the denial of permission to proceed against a retired high court judge in the same matter.
The original case pertains to a Medical Council of India issue. The MCI had denied permission to Prasad Education Trust, an institution based in Lucknow, to run a medical college. The Trust then moved court and obtained an order in its favor. The CBI raided several people related to the case based on allegations that there was collusion between the Trust and the judiciary.
The impeachment notice says that it on record that the CBI has registered an FIR in the case. “There are several recorded conversations between middlemen, including a retired judge of the Orissa High Court, excerpts of transcripts of which are set out in the articles of charge. References to the Chief Justice by innuendo in these conversations are evident. The denial of permission to the CBI to register an FIR against Justice Narayan Shukla of the Allahabad High Court, when the CBI shared incriminating information with the Chief Justice was itself an act of misbehavior. All this requires a thorough investigation,” the notice reads.
2. The second charge against the CJI is that he listed the petition against the Prasad Education Trust before himself, in which he too was likely to fall within the scope of the investigation and even when he was heading the Constitution bench. The opposition parties contend that doing so was against the convention.
3. The third allegation is the “serious charge” of “antedating” (backdating) of an order for the listing of a petition related to the investigation against the Prasad Education Trust in the Supreme Court.
The impeachment notice submitted to the states that the practice in the Supreme Court is that when the CJI is in a Constitution Bench, and matters are to be listed, requests for listing are made before the first puisne judge.
“On November 9, 2017, when a writ petition was mentioned before Justice Chelameswar at 10:30 AM since the CJI was sitting in a Constitution Bench, the same was directed to be listed later the same day. When the matter was taken up, a note dated November 6, 2017, was placed before the judges hearing the matter by an official of the Registry. This is the basis of the third charge alleging that the note of November 6 brought to the attention of Justice Chelameswar on November 9 as the matter taken up was antedated,” the statement read.
4. The fourth charge pertains to a piece of land which Misra acquired as an advocate by giving a “false affidavit” and the plot was surrendered in 2012 when he was elevated to the Supreme Court, even though orders canceling the allotment were given in 1985.
5. The fifth charge relates to “the abuse of exercise of power by the Chief Justice in choosing to send sensitive matters to particular benches by misusing his authority as Master of the Roster with the likely intent to influence the outcome”. This was also the issue raised by four senior judges of the Supreme Court at an unprecedented press conference in January when they had raised questions about Misra’s conduct.
What happens next?
a) To move an impeachment motion against the CJI, the signatures of 100 MPs are needed in the Lok Sabha and the signatures of 50 members are required in the Rajya Sabha. The motion can be introduced in either of the Houses.
b) After the motion is introduced, it will be up to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha to accept it. In this case, it would be up to Sumitra Mahajan and Venkaiah Naidu, respectively.
c) If the motion is accepted, a three-member committee, comprising one Supreme Court judge, one judge of the high court and one notable jurist, would be formed to further investigate the charges.
d) If the three-member committee further decides to support the motion, the matter will be taken up for discussion in the House where it had been originally introduced. The impeachment process will get passed only when either 100 Lok Sabha MPs or 50 Rajya Sabha members support the motion.
e) Irrespective of which House introduces the motion, according to the Indian Constitution, it will have to be passed by the other House as well. Only after gaining a two-thirds majority in both the Houses will the motion finally get passed to the President of India.
f) If the motion is passed in both the Houses, then the President will take the final call.