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Officials say RS chairman has right to reject impeachment notice

April 23, 2018 21:00 IST

Referring to Article 124 of the Constitution, the sources said the notice should have grounds of 'proved misbehaviour or incapacity'.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday accused the Congress of running the country through courts based on 'half-baked, false and sponsored litigations', alleging that it used the death of judge B H Loya as a political tool to settle scores.

His remarks came in the backdrop of Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu rejecting a notice by seven opposition parties led by Congress to impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra.

"The Congress, being defeated by the people repeatedly, can't run the country through corridors of courts based upon half-baked, false and sponsored litigations," he claimed.

He said the Congress' use of litigation was 'directly proportionate' to the repeated reversals it was facing in elections.

 

"Under the patronage of the Congress, even the death of judge Loya, who died of a heart attack some four years ago, was used as a political tool to settle scores both inside and outside court," the minister alleged.

He claimed the 'scathing observation' made by the top court 'with pain and distress' on how judges of the Maharashtra lower courts, the Bombay high court and even the Supreme Court 'were sought to be presented in an uncomfortable light speaks volumes of efforts to compromise the dignity of the judiciary'.

Continuing his attack, Prasad said though badly conceived, Aadhaar was the Congress' baby.

"We improved it through a legal framework, but they challenged it in the court...one of their leaders is also examining Aadhaar in the Parliamentary panel," he said.

He said the Congress would not be allowed to usurp the mandate given to the Narendra Modi-led government by such means.

Meanwhile, top sources in the government said on Monday that the Rajya Sabha Chairman has the 'statutory right' to reject a notice to impeach a judge.

Citing provisions in the Judges Inquiry Act, the sources pointed out that the Rajya Sabha Chairman or Lok Sabha Speaker can 'either admit the motion or refuse to admit the same' based on consultations and material available.

"The Chairman has the statutory right to reject the motion and statutory obligation to consult before arriving at a decision," a top government functionary said.

He also asserted that 'mere numbers' are not enough to 'trigger' the motion.

Referring to Article 124 of the Constitution, the sources said the notice should have grounds of 'proved misbehaviour or incapacity'.

"Those who complain must be sure of the grounds for removal.. In this case, the complainants were not not sure," the functionary said.

"Sufficient grounds have to be proved to trigger an inquiry (by a three-member panel headed by a SC judge)...the evidence has to be contemporaneous," the functionary said.

He said if 'some sanity' is not brought in the political system, the morale of the judiciary may be 'hit'.

Naidu rejected the notice after seeking opinion of top legal and constitutional experts, including former secretary generals of Lok Sabha and other legal luminaries with whom he held extensive consultations.

Naidu also took the views of top legal and constitutional experts, including former chief justices and judges, over the past two days before taking the decision.

The Rajya Sabha Chairman said the allegations emerging from the present case have a 'serious tendency' of undermining the independence of judiciary which is the basic tenet of the Constitution.

The Bharatiya Janata Party 'thanked' Naidu for rejecting the notice and said the Congress's attempt was an act of 'blasphemy' towards the Constitution.

BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi told a press conference that the Congress was adopting 'intimidatory' tactics towards the Supreme Court and its move was not an attack on the individual but an institution as it wanted to create anarchy by making people "lose" faith in the judiciary.

She accused the Congress of trying to create an impression in the world that India was a banana republic, something it had turned the country into when it was in power, by 'disrupting institutions' and added that its institutions were 'very strong' and command reverence of people.

Hitting back at the party after it criticised Naidu for rejecting its notice, the BJP leader said the Rajya Sabha Chairman's office is not a post office meant to forward petitions it receives but has to apply its mind judiciously and take a call.

"We thank him. He did not allow his office to be misused," she said, adding that the impeachment notice was the 'grossest abuse of power' by the Congress.

To a question about the Congress's assertion it would challenge the decision in court, she said it was free to do so but highlighted the reported differences in the party over the move to impeach the CJI and said it had legal experts who knew law more than Kapil Sibal and had reservations about the exercise.

Former Union minister and Congress MP Sibal has been at the forefront of his party's efforts to impeach the CJI.

She alleged that after losing votes and support of the people, the Congress was resorting to the tactics of 'threatening' and putting pressure on the judiciary.

It is trying to put the judiciary in a dock as it wants a 'chosen few' to hear some cases, Lekhi claimed.

The New Delhi MP also claimed that the petition was moved hurriedly and was 'unsure' of allegations it levelled on the CJI.

Dubbing the Congress as 'disruptor of democracy and institutions', Lekhi said it had interfered with the process of appointment of judges paving the way for the collegium system of appointment in the higher judiciary.

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