SC terms public statements on impeachment of judges unfortunate

PTI file photo for representation.

The Supreme Court on Friday described as “unfortunate” the discussion being held in media about events leading to a move to impeach the Chief Justice of India.

“We are very disturbed by what is happening,” a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan orally observed, hearing a PIL for laying down guidelines and restraining media from publishing reports on the move, in view of a clear-cut bar under Article 121 of the Constitution.

The article states that no discussions shall take place in Parliament with respect to the conduct of any judge of the Supreme Court or of a high court in the discharge of his duties, except upon a motion for presenting an address to the President praying for the removal of the judge.

Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for Pune-based NGO In Pursuit of Justice, contended a judge cannot act fearlessly if he remains in office and such a motion is discussed in public before being brought in Parliament.

“The discussions in the public domain amount to intimidation of the judiciary and is a gross abuse of the process of law,” she said.

The court, after hearing the counsel briefly, decided to seek the assistance of the attorney general and posted the matter for consideration on May 7. The petition came up for hearing before the court hours before seven opposition parties submitted an impeachment motion for removal of CJI Dipak Misra.

The petition stated, undoubtedly Article 124 (4) along with 217 of the Constitution provided for the removal of a judge of the Supreme Court. The process, however, is regulated by the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 along with the rules. Nothing in the Constitution, statute or the rules permitted public discourse in respect of acts or abstinences leading to initiation of the motion in the Parliament.

It contended that the founding fathers of the Constitution adopted a cumbersome process to remove a judge for only proved misbehaviour or incapacity with a view to reinforce that independence to the judge was of paramount importance to sustain, strengthen and elongate the Rule of Law.

“The illegal acts of the parliamentarians in bringing in public domain, their threats of exercise of their legitimate power within Parliament, has the effect of scandalising the court and is calculated to bring a court or a judge into contempt and lower his authority and interfere with the due course of justice and the lawful process of the Court. This scurrilous abuse of a judge and attack on his personal character is punishable contempt,” it stated.

The circulation of draft notice of motion to the press would have far-reaching ramifications including undermining public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the courts and would be deleterious to the efficacy of the judicial process, it said.

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