On January 11, four top-level Supreme Court (SC) judges, had in a press conference, made complaints against Dipak Misra, on the grounds of administrative and judicial irregularity in the apex court. Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurien Joseph had said Misra was assigning important cases in an arbitrary manner to junior judges, ignoring these four senior judges. ‘India’s democracy is at stake’, the judges alleged and questioned the sacred position of the Chief Justice of India. (http://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/chief-justice-of-india-impeachment-motion-process-of-removing-chief-justice-dipak-misra-118032800747_1.html)
Charges against the Chief Justice
- Justice Loya’s death: The CJI refused SC judges’ petition, which demanded an independent probe against Loya’s death.
- Prasad Education Trust case: The case relates to acceptance of bribery by medical institutions for getting clearances to set up medical colleges. It has been alleged that the CJI had submitted a false affidavit allowing the acquisition of lands to the institutions for building medical colleges. Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences was one among 46 institutions to be barred by the Union government from admitting students for medical courses for two academic years starting from 2017. This followed an MCI report on their substandard infrastructural facilities and failure to meet the required criteria.However, since August 2017, the college has been granted many reliefs by both the Supreme Court and Allahabad high court.
- The second charge relates to the Chief Justice having dealt on the administrative as well as on the judicial side with a writ petition which sought an investigation into the matter of Prasad Education Trust, in which he too was likely to fall within the scope of an investigation. The practice in the Supreme Court is that when the Chief Justice is in a Constitution Bench, and matters are to be listed, requests for listing are made before the first puisne Judge. This is an age-old practice. On November 9, 2017, when a writ petition was mentioned before Justice J. Chelameswar at 10.30 a.m. since the Chief Justice 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 was taken up was antedated. The charge of antedating is by all accounts a very serious charge. (http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/apr/20/cji-impeachment-motion-four-acts-of-misbehaviour-levelled-against-chief-justice-dipak-misra-%E2%80%8B-1804146.html)
- The third Charge relates the Chief Justice having acquired land when he was an advocate by giving an affidavit which was found to be false. Further despite the orders of the ADM, cancelling the allotment in 1985, the Chief Justice surrendered the land only in 2012 after he was elevated to the Supreme Court.
- The fourth 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. (http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/apr/20/cji-impeachment-motion-four-acts-of-misbehaviour-levelled-against-chief-justice-dipak-misra-%E2%80%8B-1804146.html)
How can the CJI be removed?
Article 124(4) of the Constitution lays down the procedure for removal of a judge of the Supreme Court, including the CJI, who can be impeached on grounds of “misbehaviour or incapacity”.
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 (i.e. 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 levelled 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-thirds majority of MPs in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
Step 5: After it is passed in both Houses, it is presented to the President, who can pass a Presidential Order for removal of the CJI.
- Opposition leaders submitted a notice to Vice President Venkaiah Naidu for the impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. This comes after the Supreme Court judgment which dismissed the demand for an investigation into the death of CBI judge BH Loya. 71 Parlementaires of seven different political parties signed the impeachment notice against the CJI. These MPs are from Congress, CPM, the NCP, CPI, the SP, the Muslim league, the BSP. (https://lawrato.com/legal-news/2044/opposition-submits-notice-to-vice-president-for-impeachment-of-chief-justice-dipak-misra)
- Under the Judges Enquiry Act, 1968, Vice President has the discretion to accept or reject the motion. Sec 3(1)(b) of the Act says- the Chairman may consult any person he thinks fit and after considering such materials if any, he may either admit or refuse to admit the motion.
- The test is of reasonableness and not merely getting 50 signature. It is likely the present motion will not find any merit and the request may be declined. The entire process looks politically motivated.
- If Vice President rejects the motion the decision is to be challenged at the Supreme Court which is currently a divided house. The CJI cannot hear the matter neither can the top four judges who protested against the working of CJI office.
- If the motion is accepted by the Vice President, a 3 member committee is to be formed to probe into the charges. Amongst the 3 members, one has to be either the CJI or any other SC judge. The second member has to be from High Court, and Chief Justice or other senior judges from the High Court. The third is an eminent jurist appointed by the Chairman. The committee will give reasonable opportunity to CJI to defend himself.
If the committee finds the CJI guilty, the motion will be put to vote. If 2/3rd majority votes for removal are received, an impeachment is recommended to the President. If the committee finds otherwise the charges are dropped.