Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Tuesday got relief after two Congress MPs, challenging Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu’s order rejecting the impeachment notice against him, withdrew their petitions from the Supreme Court.
The top court expressed its reluctance to go into their contention questioning the setting up of a larger bench to hear the matter.
A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice A K Sikri declared the petitions moved by the two MPs as “dismissed as withdrawn” after senior advocate and party leader Kapil Sibal, appearing for the MPs, decided not to press the pleas realising that the judges were not inclined to accept his arguments.
Sibal had sought to know who had ordered the listing of the matter before a larger bench and sought a copy of the order, saying this was necessary to enable them decide whether or not to challenge it.
The 45-minute hearing before the bench, which also comprised Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, Arun Mishra and A K Goel, saw Sibal appearing for the Rajya Sabha Congress MPs -- Partap Singh Bajwa from Punjab and Amee Harshadray Yajnik from Gujarat -- raising questions over the setting up of the five-judge bench to hear the matter.
However, Attorney General K K Venugopal sought dismissal of the petitions filed by Bajwa and Yajnik, pointing out that only two of the over 60 members, who had earlier moved the impeachment notice in the Upper House of Parliament, have approached the apex court.
Venugopal said only two MPs from one party, the Congress, have moved the court when there were MPs from six other opposition parties who had moved a notice of impeachment motion before the Rajya Sabha chairman.
The AG said “the presumption is that all others have not supported the stand taken by the Congress party to challenge the rejection of impeachment notice by Naidu.”
He also claimed that the two Congress MPs have not been authorised by rest of the MPs to file the petition in the apex court. As many as 64 Rajya Sabha MPs had signed the notice of impeachment against the CJI, which was rejected by Naidu on April 23.
Before the Attorney General opened his arguments, Sibal raised a volley of questions on the setting up of the constitution bench, including who had passed the order to set up such a bench to hear the matter.
The senior advocate said the matter was listed before the five-judge bench through an administrative order and the Chief Justice of India cannot pass such orders in this matter and sought a copy of the order, saying it was necessary for them to decide whether they could challenge it.
The bench repeatedly asked Sibal whether any purpose would be served if the two MPs were given a copy of the administrative order passed by the CJI for setting up of the five-judge bench.
“It is a piquant and unprecedented situation where CJI is a party and other four judges may also have some role. We don’t know,” the bench said.
Sibal said only after getting a copy of the order could they decide whether or not to challenge it.
However, when the bench showed reluctance to accept his arguments and submissions, the senior advocate decided to withdraw the petition.
The start of the hearing witnessed two advocates intervening and opposing the appearance of Sibal for the Congress MPs on the ground that he himself was a signatory to the impeachment notice before the Rajya Sabha chairman.
However, the bench did not accept their reasoning and went ahead with the hearing.
The two Congress MPs had on Monday moved the apex court challenging the rejection of the impeachment notice against the CJI by Naidu, claiming that the reasons given were “wholly extraneous” and not legally tenable.
Sibal had then mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar, the senior-most after CJI Misra.
While Justice Chelameswar initially asked him to mention it before the CJI, the bench, which also comprised Justice S K Kaul, later asked Sibal and advocate Prashant Bhushan to “come back tomorrow”.
Late Monday evening, the matter was listed for hearing on Tuesday before the five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice Sikri.
The Rajya Sabha Chairman had on April 23 rejected the notice, given by seven opposition parties led by the Congress for impeachment of the CJI on five grounds of “misbehaviour”. This was the first time that an impeachment notice was filed against a sitting CJI.
The petition filed by the MPs had alleged that the charges contained in the notice of motion were extremely serious and called for a full fledged inquiry
Photograph: Manvender Vashist/PTI Photo