Why Was the Petition in SC on CJI Impeachment Withdrawn?

The Quint explains why Kapil Sibal withdrew the plea challenging the rejection of impeachment motion against the CJI

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On Tuesday, 8 May, the petition filed by two Congress Rajya Sabha MPs against Vice President Venkaiah Naidu’s rejection of the motion to impeach Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, was withdrawn by their lawyer Kapil Sibal. As a result, the case stands dismissed by the Supreme Court, although there has been no adjudication or assessment of the validity of the Rajya Sabha Chairman’s decision.

But why was it withdrawn?

Since this petition relates to actual charges of misbehaviour against Dipak Misra, the petitioners didn’t want the CJI to either hear the case or even decide which judges would hear it. Sibal had, therefore, mentioned the case on Monday in the courtroom of Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the senior-most judge of the apex court after the Chief Justice.

Justice Chelameswar had asked the petitioners to return on Tuesday morning, when he would take a call on whether to admit the petition and before which judges it would be listed.

However, on Monday evening, the Supreme Court causelist indicated that the petition was going to be heard by a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Justice AK Sikri –and which included neither Justice Chelameswar nor any of the other senior-most judges of the court.

As a result, when the matter came up for hearing on Tuesday, Sibal sought to know how the Constitution Bench was set up to hear this case. These special benches of the Supreme Court are normally set up after a reference under Article 145(3) of the Constitution – a reference which needs to be made by some sort of order.

The issue here was clear: did the CJI decide which judges would hear the case? Did the CJI decide which judge would assess Venkaiah Naidu’s rejection of the impeachment motion? If this is what had happened, Sibal said they would challenge it.

The court refused to answer Sibal, and instead told him to argue the merits of the case. This was why he decided to withdraw the case, since he was being denied the opportunity to decide whether or not to challenge the constitution of the bench before him.

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