New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) Two Congress MPs, who had challenged the rejection of the impeachment notice against the Chief Justice of India by Rajya Sabha Chairman, today withdrew their petition from the Supreme Court after it showed reluctance to part with the administrative order on constitution of a larger bench to hear the matter.
The two MPs confronted a five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice A K Sikri and demanded a “copy of the administrative order by which a constitution bench was constituted overnight”.
The bench, also including Justices S A Bobde, N V Ramana, Arun Mishra and Adarsh Kumar Goel, told senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the two law-makers that giving a copy of the administrative order “will not lead to anywhere”.
The bench, which comprised judges who are 6 to 10 position in terms of seniority, expressed reluctance to go into their contention questioning the setting up of a larger bench to hear the matter.
“It is a piquant and unprecedented situation where CJI is a party and other four judges may also have some role. We don’t know,” the bench said when Sibal asked where can he mention the matter for seeking the administrative order.
The court said “It will lead us nowhere. You can argue the matter on merit. We are ready for it”.
The bench declared the petitions moved by Rajya Sabha Congress MPs, Partap Singh Bajwa and Amee Harshadray Yajnik, as “dismissed as withdrawn” after Sibal decided not to press the pleas realising that the judges were not inclined to accept his arguments.
The 45-minute hearing before the bench saw Sibal raising a volley of questions over the setting up of the five-judge bench to hear the matter.
However, Attorney General K K Venugopal sought dismissal of the petitions filed by Bajwa and Yajnik, pointing out that only two of the 64 members, who had moved the impeachment notice in the Upper House of Parliament, have approached the apex court.
Venugopal, appearing for Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu, said only two MPs from one party, the Congress, have moved the court whereas there were MPs from six other opposition parties who had moved the impeachment notice in the Rajya Sabha.
Sibal cited various verdicts and said the court should tell him whether the CJI’s order on the administrative side can be challenged on the judicial side, or if it cannot be challenged, then it should be recorded.
He said if the CJI’s order on the administrative side cannot be challenged, then he will withdraw the plea.
The bench said, “You told us in the beginning that you have no personal agenda against anyone, no malice and no malafide against anyone but it appears that there is something else”.
Sibal replied, “What is something else. I still stand by my words that I have no agenda against anyone. We are here to uphold the dignity of the institution”.
Justice Sikri reminded Sibal that he had started out by saying that the dignity of the institution was at stake and its values needed to be upheld.
Sibal shot back asking whether the dignity of the court be jeopardised if the administrative order to set up the five-judge bench is given to him.
The bench said “Then, you can make an application seeking an administrative order”.
Sibal said “what application? If I am not given the copy of the administrative order, then I will withdraw”.
The bench said, “Ok then, the petition is dismissed as withdrawn”.
Earlier, questioning the maintainability of the petition, the Attorney General had said there were various occasions where the CJI had directly ordered listing of a matter before a constitution bench.
“Once the decision is given by the Rajya Sabha chairman, which in the instant case is a very reasoned order, there are two options, either you challenge it or accept it. In this context, it means six parties and 62 MPs have accepted the chairman’s order. At least 50 MPs should have come before the court,” the Attorney General said.
“The presumption is that six other political parties have accepted the decision except the two Congress MPs. It means all others have not supported the stand taken by the Congress party to challenge the rejection of impeachment notice,” the AG said.
Sibal said, “We want a copy of the administrative order by which the Constitution bench was constituted overnight. Its my right to know who constituted the bench. The master of roster that is Chief Justice of India is not entitled to pass orders. Constitution bench are constituted by an judicial order.”
Justice Sikri asked, “What purpose the order will serve to you? It will not lead us anywhere”.
Sibal replied, “It is my right to have the order. I may or may not challenge it. It is my prerogative. I want to know the authority who had passed the administrative order. I was informed at 9.29am today that my case is listed before a Constitution bench”.
He said “the issue is very simple. Can the order passed on the administrative side be challenged on the judicial side or please record that I am not entitled to it”.
The bench said that the court can very well decide on setting up of a bench in matters of such “seminal importance” which concerns the very institution.
While Justice Bobde asked Sibal that he can file application for seeking a copy of the administrative order, Justice Goel said “There is no bar that a five-judge bench cannot hear.