CJI impeachment: Five-judge SC bench to hear Congress MPs’ plea against rejection today; top developments

The Supreme Court bench of five judges will today hear a plea contesting Vice President Venkaiah Naidus decision to quash the impeachment notice of the opposition against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The top courts list of business showed that the petition moved by two Congress MPs on Monday will be heard today by a bench headed by Justices AK Sikri at 10:30 am. The other judges on the bench are Justice SA Bobde, Justice NV Ramana, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice AK Goel. Justice Sikri is at the sixth place in the seniority list of the Supreme Court judges. He is followed by other judges on the bench in the sequence of the seniority list. Top developments: 1. The decision to mention the petition before judges who are not in the seniority list between number two to five is significant because the four seniormost judges of the highest judiciary had in an unprecedented move addressed the media on January 12 to express their displeasure against the CJIs style of functioning. They are Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Jospeh. 2. Two Congress MPs from Rajya Sabha on Monday moved the Supreme Court challenging the Rajya Sabha Chairmans decision to dismiss the impeachment motion against CJI Dipak Misra. The petition was filed by Partap Singh Bajwa of Punjab and Amee Harshadyay Yajnik of Gujarat. The lawmakers argued that once a motion to impeach the CJI is signed by the requisite number of MPs, is submitted to the Rajya Sabha Chairman, he has no option but to constitute an inquiry committee to probe allegations levelled against the top judge. The Congress-led opposition parties impeachment notice was signed by 64 Upper House MPs. 3. The Congress petition was mentioned for an urgent hearing before a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar by senior Congress leader and lawyer Kapil Sibal. But the court. But Justice J Chelameswar, who is the seniormost among the to four judges, told Sibal to the mention the plea before the CJI for an urgent hearing, citing a Constitution bench judgement on powers of the master of roster. To this, Sibal said that he is well aware of the procedure but since the matter against the CJI, it should be heard by the senior judge who comes after the CJI. But later, the bench also comprising Justice SK Kaul asked Sibal and advocate Prashant Bhushan to come back tomorrow. Sibal is also one of the signatories of the impeachment notice. 4. On April 23, Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu had rejected the notice given by 64 opposition parties MPs from the Upper House to remove the CJI on grounds of misbehaviour, corruption, and failing to protect the independence of the judiciary. The impeachment motion was signed by MPs of the Congress and six other parties. In his order, the Chairman said the notice to remove the CJI lacked substantial merit and it was based on assumption rather than factual proof. The Chairmans decision had triggered a massive political slugfest with the Congress accusing the Chairman of exceeding his power of deciding the merits of plea and BJP charging the grand old party of trying to demean, degrade and denigrate the judiciary. An impeachment motion against the CJI can be initiated when at least 50 Rajya Sabha MPs give a signed notice to the presiding officer. However, in the case of Lok Sabha, the notice needs to be signed by at least 100 MPs.