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Motion on CJI: Opposition struggles for Nos

Congress president Rahul Gandhi as well as former finance minister P Chidambaram, however, are of the view that the move, though symbolic, will be a deterrent for future CJIs from diverging from judicial norms.

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Motion on CJI: Opposition struggles for Nos
Dipak Misra
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Opposition parties worked furiously on Friday to gather the requisite support to bring an impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra in the Rajya Sabha when Parliament resumes on Monday.

With Congress keen on staying in the shadows because of divergent views within, it is now upon other parties to garner the minimum requirement of 50 MPs' signature for the motion to be admitted.

Congress that initially took the lead has 54 MPs in the Upper House. But the old guard, including leaders Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal, held the view that the dignity of the judiciary should be left untouched.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi as well as former finance minister P Chidambaram, however, are of the view that the move, though symbolic, will be a deterrent for future CJIs from diverging from judicial norms.

So far, no judge has been impeached in India, though proceedings have been initiated against some in the past. Demands for Misra's impeachment began after an open outburst of four senior judges against him on January 12. They had alleged that the Misra was not following established precedents in allocation of cases. The four judges had held a press conference to "save the institution and the democracy."

It is also likely that MPs will sign the letter in their individual capacity, without representing any party. MPs from Left, Samajwadi Party, DMK, RJD and NCP have pledged support, while BJD has reportedly refused to sign because CJI Misra is from Odisha. TMC, however, has not yet pledged support.

Once an impeachment motion is admitted by any of the Houses, it can either be accepted or rejected by the Lok Sabha Speaker or the Rajya Sabha Chairman.

If admitted, then a three-member committee of a senior Supreme Court judge, a High Court judge and a prominent jurist is formed to investigate the charges.

If the committee agrees, then the matter is taken up for discussion in the House and must be passed by a special majority. The motion is then taken up in the next House where it needs to be passed by a two-third majority. When both Houses have passed it, the President is approached.

Admitting that impeachment was a long-drawn process that cannot be completed in six months — the span of Misra's remaining tenure — a senior Congress leader said the notice will symbolise a moment and serve as a warning to future top judges to use their authority judiciously.

Also, it is not possible for the Opposition to muster the two-thirds majority required in both Houses to push through the motion.

In a virtual revolt in the highest echelons of the judiciary, Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurien Joseph had claimed that CJI Misra was assigning important cases in an arbitrary manner to junior judges, ignoring the senior ones.

In the last case, Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court had tendered his resignation in 2011 after the Rajya Sabha passed the motion to impeach him. Justice V Ramaswami was the first judge against whom impeachment proceedings were initiated in 1993. These were cases that involved allegations of financial impropriety and extravagance.

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