NEW DELHI: True to his reputation of paying microscopic attention to detail, Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu relied heavily on various Supreme Court orders, including the M Krishna Swami Vs Union of India (AIR 1993 SC 1407), before rejecting the notice of motion for removal of the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, under Article 124 (4) of the Constitution.
“The Speaker would act with utmost care, caution, circumspection and responsibility and wholly guided by considerations of larger interest of the public administration of justice. He would equally keep in his gaze and the mind the seriousness of the imputations, nature and quality of the record (proofs of charges) before him and its indelible chilling effect on the public administration of justice and independence of the judiciary in the estimate of the general public,” the apex court had ruled in the M. Krishna Swami Vs Union of India case, which Naidu has quoted in his rejection letter.
Naidu cited the Mehar Singh Saini (2010) 13 SCC 586, AIR 2011, to stress that the prefix “proved” in the expression “proved misbehaviour”, placed an obligation of actually proving misbehaviour before the parliamentary procedure for removal of a judge could come into play. He, thus, made it evident his decision would not be swayed by mere suggestions of “misbehaviour on the part of the CJI”.
He rejecting the claim that the CJI had abused his power as master of roster by referring to the case of Kamini Jaiswal Vs Union of India, 2017, in which the apex court had observed that “...once the CJI is stated to be the master of roster, he alone has the prerogative to constitute Benches... there cannot be any direction to the CJI as to who shall be sitting on the Bench or who shall take up the matter”.
Naidu cited the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association and Another Vs Union of India, AIR 2015 SCW 5457 to assert the independence of the judiciary in the democratic architecture of the country. Further, he referred to the apex court observation in the Rajendra Sail Vs M.P. High Court Bar Assn. (2005) that “if the judiciary is to perform its duties and function effectively and true to the spirit with which they are sacredly entrusted, the dignity and authority of the courts have to be respected and protected at all costs”.
Excerpts from VP’s order
I thought it fit to consult legal luminaries, Constitutional experts and former Secretary General of both the Houses, former law officers, Law Commission members, and eminent jurists who generously shared their insights based on their long rich experience.
I had detailed personal conversations with some of them on all the aspects arising from the notice. I have considered each of the allegations individually as well as collectively in the light of annexures and annexed to the notice.
...assumptions (mentioned in the notice) certainly don’t constitute proof beyond the reasonable doubt which is required to make out a case for “proved misbehaviour”. Conversations between third parties with dubious credentials which have been extensively relied upon cannot themselves as any material evidence against the holder of the office of the CJI. The guidelines laid down in Article 124 (4) and the Judges Enquiry Act 1968 along with the rules of 1969 the process of the removal of the judges and envisages stringent conditions necessary for initiation of such proceedings. All these arrangements are aimed at being difficult and onerous to keep the judges independent of any external pressure.
I am of the clear opinion that all facts as stated in the motion read with the context of the annexed documents don’t make out a case under Article 124 (4) of the Constitution which can lead any reasonable mind to conclude that the CJI on these facts can be ever held guilty of “misbehaviour”.
On a careful analysis and reflection, I find that there is virtually no concrete verifiable imputation. Either the allegations are within judicial domain and concern the internal judicial processes or there are unsubstantiated surmises and conjectures which hardly merit or necessitate further investigation.
In the absence of credible and verifiable information placed before me which gives an indication of “misbehaviour” or “incapacity”, it would be an inappropriate and irresponsible act to accept the statements which have little empirical basis.
This act of Members of discussing the conduct of the CJI in the press is against propriety and Parliamentary decorum as it denigrates the institution of the CJI. I am also aware that there have been a spate of statements in the press that seem to vitiate the atmosphere, I thought I should, therefore, expedite my decision and end neddless speculation.