New Delhi: Kapil Sibal, as a minister of the UPA government, had said that the mere fact that 50 odd Members of Parliament of the opposition were seeking the impeachment of a judge was not a sufficient condition to initiate a motion of impeachment in Parliament against the judge targeted by the opposition.
In an interview with Sonia Verma-Singh of NDTV, the then minister said, “We certainly need a system through which judges, errant judges, can be dealt with, but not a system where political parties as opposition… and say now 50 people have signed; now the guy is guilty.”
This interview was broadcast on 24 January 2010.
Ironically, the impeachment motion that the INC tried to bring to Parliament against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, which has been rejected by Rajya Sabha Chairman (and Vice-President) M Venkaiah Naidu, was based precisely on the premise that Sibal had rejected as a functionary of the UPA government.
The two grounds on which a judge can be impeached are professional misconduct (corruption) and (physical) incapability. Neither could be applied to Justice Misra.
Article 124(4) of the Constitution lays down the procedure for removal of a judge of the Supreme Court, including the CJI, who can be impeached on grounds of “misbehaviour or incapacity”.
In late January, it struck the CPI(M) that CJI Misra must be removed. Last Friday, the INC led by Sibal gathered signatures of more than 64 MPs of the Rajya Sabha belonging to seven different political parties and sent their notice of impeachment to the Chairman of the House.
A removal motion signed by 100 members of Lok Sabha or 50 members of Rajya Sabha has to be submitted to the Speaker of the Lower House or Chairperson (ie Vice President) of the Upper House. This can be in either of the Houses of Parliament. The Speaker/Chairperson can then either accept or reject the motion.
Five senior leaders of the INC, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, refused to sign the motion. The others were Abhishek Manu Singhvi, P Chidambaram, Veerappa Moily and Manish Tewari. Singhvi said to television channels later that he had signed the document late — before the news was broadcast on television.