The Supreme Court today virtually dampened the spirits of opposition MPs publicly advocating impeachment of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, observing that the Rajya Sabha rules prohibited them from making public statements on removal of a judge of the higher judiciary without any notice in Parliament.
The apex court, which was hearing a plea seeking to restrain Members of Parliament (MPs) from making public statements on removal of a judge without any notice in Parliament, also said there was “no urgency” in the mater and posted the hearing for the third week of July.
The petition was filed in the backdrop of Congress and other opposition parties submitting a notice to Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for initiating removal proceedings against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. The notice was later rejected by Naidu.
When a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan was told that public statements by politicians were made without there being any such notice in Parliament, the bench said, “Rajya Sabha Rules also prohibits such statements”.
Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, representing petitioner NGO ‘In Pursuit of Justice’, said the issue raised in the plea was concerned with the “times to come” and required consideration by the top court.
The bench responded by saying “why do you feel that such a time will come again and again” and adding “there is no urgency now”.
Attorney General (AG) K K Venugopal, who was earlier asked by the court to assist it in the matter, told the bench that the plea has become infructuous.
The petitioner said it has been held the world over that making such public statements amounted to interference in the independence of the judge concerned.
During the hearing, the Attorney General referred to the Judges (Inquiry) Act and the constitutional provisions dealing with the establishment of the Supreme Court and the procedure to be followed for removal of an apex court judge.
Regarding the plea which also seeks laying down guidelines to regulate the procedure to be followed prior to initiating a motion for removing a judge of the top court, the bench said “we do not have to frame any guidelines”.
Arora said the Judges (Inquiry) Act comes into effect only after the Rajya Sabha Chairman takes notice of the motion for initiation of removal proceedings against a judge of higher judiciary and sets up an inquiry commission. But they have raised the issue of public statements by MPs even ahead of such a notice being there before Parliament.
However, Venugopal said the process of removal proceedings was part of the privilege of the Parliament.
The bench said the issue before it was whether there should be a discussion outside Parliament about it without there being any such notice in the House.
Arora then referred to the recommendations of the Law Commission and said it has also said that such public statements cannot be made outside.
“We can dispose it (plea) of by directing the Law Commission to look into it,” the bench then observed.
The senior counsel said the commission had given its recommendation way back in 2005 that it should be an offence to discuss these things outside the House, but nothing has been done till now.
The plea has sought laying of guidelines or modalities regulating procedure to be followed by MPs, desirous of initiating proceedings for removal of a judge of the Supreme Court or a high court, prior to initiating a motion under Article 124(4) and (5) and 217(1)(b) of the Constitution. Articles 124(4) and (5) deal with the procedure to be followed for removal of an apex court judge.
The petitioner has said the cause of action arose in the matter when a draft motion for removal of the CJI was released to the press on March 27 which had an effect of intimidating the judiciary.
The plea also referred to various media reports carrying the statements of MPs and politicians in this regard and said no law was made by Parliament which permits the circulation of a draft notice of motion to the media.
On April 20, the apex court had refused to gag the media at this stage from publishing or telecasting any information relating to discussions and deliberations on removal of judges of either the apex court or the high courts.