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The petition was filed by two Congress Rajya Sabha MPs — Partap Singh Bajwa from Punjab and Amee Harshadray Yajnik from Gujarat — challenging the vice-president’s decision to nix the bid to impeach the Chief Justice.
A five-judge bench of Justices A K Sikri, SA Bobde, N V Ramana, Arun K Mishra and Adarsh K Girl dismissed the petition as withdrawn.
Sibal’s appearance for the two RS Congress MPS was objected by two advocates R P Luthra and Ashwini Upadhyay who said the Bar Council of India prohibits those advocate politicians who have signed the notice of removal motion from arguing the same case. But the apex court said it was for Sibal to decide whether to argue or not.
The top court repeatedly asked what purpose it would serve if Sibal was given a copy of the administrative order passed by the CJI that referred the petition to the five-judge bench. Sibal maintained that only after getting the order would he decide whether to challenge it or accept it. But when the Supreme Court expressed reluctance to part with the administrative order, Sibal then abruptly decided to withdraw the petition.
Attorney general K K Venugopal, on his part, while arguing the case said the motion was signed by 64 MPs from seven political parties. “How can only two MPs from one political party have a grievance against the Rajya Sabha chairman’s (vice president) order rejecting the notice for removal motion when six other political parties appear to have accepted it?” he questioned.
When the attorney general questioned maintainability of the petition on this ground, Sibal retorted by saying the next time he would come with a petition by 60 MPs. “Hope that will satisfy the AG on question of maintainability,” the Congress leader remarked.
The bench hearing the case was headed by Justice Sikri and included none of the senior judges — Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph — who held an unprecedented press conference on January 12 to accuse the CJI of arbitrarily allocating important cases to “select benches headed by junior judges”.
The cases the judges referred to included a petition seeking a probe into the death of Judge B H Loya, who was presiding over the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter trial where BJP chief Amit Shah was an accused. Shah was discharged in the case. Subsequently, Congress submitted a removal motion against the CJI in Rajya Sabha while the government said the move was intended to intimidate the judiciary. The challenge to Venkaiah Naidu’s decision to reject the motion was mentioned before a bench of Justices Chelameswar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul in dramatic fashion on Monday.
In his order, Naidu had said the motion did not meet the requirement of “proved misconduct” and lacked “substantial and verifiable” evidence of wrongdoing and that opposition MPs were themselves unsure as reflected by their use of phrases like “may have been” and “appears to have” while stating their case.