A five-judge constitution bench was today constituted in the Supreme Court to hear tomorrow the petition moved by two Congress MPs challenging the rejection of the impeachment notice against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra by Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu.
The list of business for the Supreme Court showed that the petition, which was mentioned today, would be heard tomorrow by a bench comprising Justices A K Sikri, S A Bobde, N V Ramana, Arun Mishra and A K Goel.
While Justice Sikri, who will head the bench, is number six in the seniority list, others follow him in the sequence of seniority.
It is significant that the matter has not been listed before the judges who are number two to five in the seniority.
These judges — Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Jospeh — had held the controversial January 12 press conference in which they had virtually revolted against the CJI by raising a litany of allegations against him.
Earlier in the day, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was one of the signatories to the impeachment notice in the Rajya Sabha, had mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar, the senior-most after CJI Misra.
While Justice Chelameswar initially asked him to mention the matter before the CJI, the bench, also comprising Justice S K Kaul, later asked Sibal and advocate Prashant Bhushan to “come back tomorrow”.
Both Justice Chelameswar and Justice Kaul went into a huddle and asked Sibal and Bhushan to come tomorrow so they could take a call on the issue.
Sibal said he was aware of the constitution bench judgment on master of roster, and added that since the impeachment notice concerns the CJI the senior-most judge of the apex court can order for listing.
“I am aware of the procedure but it can’t be mentioned anywhere else. A person cannot be a judge in his own cause. I am just asking for urgent listing and not seeking any interim relief,” Sibal said.
He said the CJI cannot order for listing, therefore the senior-most judge of this court must pass some orders as it was a matter of constitutional importance.According to Sibal, this type of situation had not arisen before and the court should pass an order on who would deal with the matter and how it would be dealt with.
Justice Kaul asked Sibal, who has drafted the petition, whether the plea had been numbered.Sibal replied that they have filed a petition in the Registry but they are not willing to number it.”The procedure of this court is very simple. I have practised in this court for past 45 years. The Registrar can’t take orders from the CJI in this matter. The CJI can’t delegate its master of roster powers to the Registrar. All I am asking Justice Chelameswar to consider this,” Sibal said.
Justice Chelameswar replied, “I am on the verge of retiring.” Sibal “requested” the court to pass some orders on when the petition is to be heard and who can hear the matter.
Advocate Bhushan, who appeared along with Sibal, said according to rules, the CJI is disabled to pass any order and only the senior-most judge can decide on the listing of the petition.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had on April 23 rejected the notice, given by opposition parties led by the Congress for impeachment of the chief justice of India. Seven opposition parties led by the Congress had in April third week moved a notice before the Chairman for impeachment of the CJI on five grounds of “misbehaviour”.This is the first time that an impeachment notice has been filed against a sitting CJI.