Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Monday said Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu’s decision to reject the impeachment notice that Opposition MPs had submitted against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra was expected.
However, he added, he did not expect Naidu to dismiss the plea with such haste. The vice president cut short his visit to Hyderabad and returned to New Delhi on Sunday afternoon to consult legal experts. “Hopefully, the alacrity was not intended to render infructuous calls for CJI to stop administrative work,” Singhvi tweeted.
His party colleague Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed Naidu did not have the mandate to adjudge the motion. “Within hours of 64 MPs submitting the impeachment motion, the leader of the Rajya Sabha had expressed naked prejudice by calling it a ‘revenge petition’, virtually dictating the verdict to Rajya Sabha chairman on that day,” Surjewala claimed, referring to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s statement. “Has ‘revenge petition’ now become ‘rescue order’,” he asked.
The Congress leader said that if the charges were required to be proved before an inquiry, then the Constitution and the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968, would have no relevance.
Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan also questioned the grounds on which Naidu had rejected the petition.
Former Lok Sabha Speaker and Communist leader Somnath Chatterjee, however, said the Rajya Sabha chairperson was within his rights to dismiss the motion. “This was a controversial attempt,” Chatterjee told NDTV. “The step should not have been taken without support of the majority. It would have been a great set back to the judiciary, and its respect among the people. Happy that it puts an end to the matter.”
Justice RS Sodhi, a former Delhi High Court judge, also criticised the Opposition’s attempt to impeach Misra. “You know you do not have any ground, you know you cannot impeach him,” Sodhi told ANI. “In spite of knowing all that, still you go on and plunge in this ill-advised move. This cannot be considered as a wise act.”
BJP President Amit Shah said this is part of a “larger trend to demonise and weaken every institution that seeks to maintain its individual identity and not kowtow to the dynasty”.
“India has a vibrant democracy and a vibrant Constitution,” Shah said in a Facebook post. “The Congress’ ‘Save the Constitution’ campaign is nothing but a farce that seeks to perpetuate the rule of dynasty over the rule of democracy! Like in the past, we need to protect the Constitution from the Congress.”
BJP Spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said the Congress “has a long history of disrupting institutions of democracy”. “The rule of law cannot be confused with the rule of dynasty,” she said at a press conference. “The judiciary is one institution that is respected by all and their independence has to be maintained, but the Congress party has repeatedly shown that they are the institutional disruptors and they can go to any extent to play their dirty politics.
Similarly, another BJP spokesperson, Sambit Patra, said the Congress and its leaders “do not trust any constitutional institution in the country”, including the Army, chief justice of India, Supreme Court, Election Commission, electronic voting machines, Reserve Bank of India, the Prime Minister’s Office and even the president.
Bar Council of India Chairperson Manan Mishra also backed Naidu’s decision, NDTV reported. “He applied his mind, consulted legal experts and took the decision thereafter,” Mishra said. “Think citizens are happy with the decision. Everybody knows there was political intent behind this, with an eye on 2019 [General Elections]. Request the judiciary to not be made a tool for political gains.”