SC says MPs’ public statements on impeachment unfortunate

New Delhi, April 20 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday dubbed as “unfortunate” the public statements by politicians on the issue of the impeachment of members of the higher judiciary.

“It is unfortunate. We are all disturbed over what is happening,” Justice A.K. Sikri, who was on the Division Bench, said.

The apex court observation came while hearing a plea for direction to lay down guidelines/modalities to regulate the procedure to be followed by Members of Parliament desirous of initiating the process for the removal of a Judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court, prior to initiating an impeachment motion.

Later on Friday, in an unprecedented move, 64 Rajya Sabha members from seven political parties led by the Congress submitted an impeachment motion for the removal of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on five grounds of “misbehaviour”.

Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for NGO In Pursuit of Justice, told the apex court earlier that politicians were making all kinds of public statements on the removal of a Judge without any motion to this effect before Parliament.

She averred that there can be no discussion and the issue of impeachment cannot be made public till a certain point.

The bench, also comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan, said: “Legislators are also supposed to follow rules.”

As Arora sought a gag order on the media on the impeachment process against the CJI in Parliament, the bench declined by saying that it would not restrain the media before hearing the Advocate General of India and declined to pass any order at this stage.

The court sought the assistance of Attorney General K.K. Venugopal on the issues raised in the petition and posted the matter for May 7.

Arora told the bench that the Law Commission report suggested a restraining order on the media and there was also a constitutional provision to restrain the media from writing on impeachment as it will affect the Judge from “discharging his judicial function”.

“Judges have to act fearlessly,” the lawyer said, adding that politicians have been publicly speaking on the issue and the media was reporting, which affected the functioning of the judiciary.

The matter was heard in the court hours before the opposition MPs moved the impeachment motion against CJI Misra.

The petition also filed by lawyer Shirin Merchant said that “it’s absolutely essential that the judiciary must be free from executive pressure or influence”.

“The act of certain parliamentarians, although vested with the power of initiating the process for the removal of a Judge, (are) nevertheless circulating, publishing and bringing in the public domain a draft motion for the removal of a Judge is nothing less than intimidating and threatening the judiciary and amounts to interference in the effective administration of justice,” the petition said.

It added that in the absence of any guidelines or modalities, discussions, deliberations and preparation done by parliamentarians for the proposed impeachment motion, if brought within the public domain for removal, poses a sure peril to judicial independence, which may become a norm or precedent, and was likely to set a dangerous trend in times to come, if not curbed immediately.

The petition sought direction for guidelines/modalities to regulate the procedure to be followed prior to initiation of an impeachment motion under Article 124(4) and (5) and 217 (1)(b) of the Constitution, or to request the Law Commission to suggest appropriate guidelines.

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