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Congress behaving like fringe, move to 'impeach' CJI a fiasco, says Arun Jaitley

The CJI got a relief on Tuesday after two Congress MPs, challenging Rajya Sabha chairman's order rejecting the 'impeachment' notice against him, withdrew their petitions from the Supreme Court.

Congress behaving like fringe, move to 'impeach' CJI a fiasco, says Arun Jaitley
File photo (PTI)

New Delhi: Senior BJP leader and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday took a dig at the Congress over the issue of 'impeachment' of the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra saying that the grand old party was 'looking for a friendly pitch to bowl on'. He also called the whole move a 'fiasco' and said that the Congress party was being pushed to the 'fringe'.

The CJI got a relief on Tuesday after two Congress MPs, challenging Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu's order rejecting the 'impeachment' notice against him, withdrew their petitions from the Supreme Court.

Naidu had on April 23, 2018, rejected the notice, given by seven Opposition parties led by the Congress for the removal of the CJI on five grounds of 'misbehaviour'. This was the first time that an impeachment notice was filed against a sitting CJI.

Following is the full text of Jaitley's blog on Facebook titled - The impeachment fiasco: Another example of Congress adopting a fringe position:

The Congress was regarded as the grand old party of Indian politics. For five decades after Independence, it dominated the political centre-stage of India. Its ouster from power, either from Centre or states, was considered an exception. Its evolution witnessed the party recede from a conventional political party to a dynastic organisation. It became a crowd around a family. A challenge which dynastic organisations face is that their popular appeal or acceptability is co-existent with the current generation of the dynasty. The fact that the Congress has been reduced to a two-digit party and is being ousted from state after state, demonstrates the non-acceptability of its current leadership.

However, the most alarming aspect of the party has been that from a grand old party which occupied centre-stage, it is being pushed to the fringe. It is not only electoral arithmetic that it occupies the fringe position but also the position that it adopts on several mainstream issues.

When its current president along with certain Left party leaders visited the Jawaharlal Nehru University when the slogans of 'tukde tukde' threatening India’s geographical integrity were raised, I had questioned its leadership in a Parliamentary debate whether its earlier leaders would have ever allowed a Congressmen to identify itself with the national disintegration campaign. But its current leader preferred a fringe position. On the use of technology, he opposes the EVMs and wants to go back on the ballot paper. On digitisation he prefers cash over the digital mode of transaction and having the pioneered the original idea of a Unique Identity Number, he has allowed his party to question it both in Parliament and in the Courts. On economic reforms, the party takes a position hostile to any reform measure and wants to go back on the retrograde policies. The leader has no qualms of releasing his photographs with a convicted ally whom he had once opposed. The fringe arty having got a minuscule number of votes in Gorakhpur and Phoolpur bye-elections celebrates the victory of Samajwadi Party.

The Congress Party’s impeachment motion against the Chief Justice of India was wholly misconceived. It is poorly drafted and lacked in substance. Many of its traditional allies were not willing to take on this confrontation with the judicial institutions. Finding a divided court, the Congress wanted to fish in troubled waters. If the motion for impeachment was unsustainable, the writ petition challenging the order of the Chairman, Rajya Sabha, was unarguable. The rejection of a motion by a Speaker or the Chairman is a part of the legislative process. It was a well-reasoned order. The rulings of the Chair on whether to admit a motion or otherwise, are not subject to judicial review. But wanting to fish in troubled waters, the Congress conceived of a strategy to chose a court of its choice for mentioning for the Constitution of the bench to hear the matter so that an unarguable matter could be arguable before a more receptive court. The Congress party was looking for a friendly pitch to bowl on.

The judgment in the unfortunate death of Judge Loya has already exposed the false hallucination of the Congress party where it concocted the unnatural death theory. It now wanted a continuing sword to hang on the Chief Justice and hence on the apex court. Its efforts of a 'foreign shopping' having failed, it refused to argue its unarguable case on merits.

Does it behove a national party to deviate from the mainstream and take such fringe position? Fringe organisations have no hope of ever coming to power. They can, therefore, afford to take positions which they will never have to implement. But can a party having ruled India for such a long tenure, push itself to take a fringe position one after the other? This, in reality, is the price which each Congressman will pay because its leader has decided that fringe position are better than the mainstream one. The congressmen in Karnataka will be the immediate victims.

Here's what happened in the SC:

The top court on Tuesday expressed its reluctance to go into their contention questioning the setting up of a larger bench to hear the matter. A five-judge constitution bench headed by Justice AK Sikri declared the petitions moved by the two MPs as "dismissed as withdrawn" after senior advocate and party leader Kapil Sibal, appearing for the MPs, decided not to press the pleas realising that the judges were not inclined to accept his arguments.

Sibal had sought to know who had ordered the listing of the matter before a larger bench and sought a copy of the order, saying this was necessary to enable them to decide whether or not to challenge it. The 45-minute hearing before the bench, which also comprised Justices SA Bobde, NV Ramana, Arun Mishra and  K Goel, saw Sibal appearing for the Rajya Sabha Congress MPs - Partap Singh Bajwa from Punjab and Amee Harshadray Yajnik from Gujarat - raising questions over the setting up of the five-judge bench to hear the matter. 

However, Attorney General KK Venugopal sought dismissal of the petitions filed by Bajwa and Yajnik, pointing out that only two of the over 60 members, who had earlier moved the notice in the Upper House of Parliament, have approached the apex court.

He also claimed that the two Congress MPs have not been authorised by rest of the MPs to file the petition in the SC. As many as 64 Rajya Sabha MPs had signed the notice of impeachment against the CJI, which was rejected by Naidu.

On the other hand, Sibal raised a volley of questions on the setting up of the constitution bench, including who had passed the order to set up such a bench to hear the matter. The senior advocate said the matter was listed before the five-judge bench through an administrative order and the CJI cannot pass such orders in this matter and sought a copy of the order, saying it was necessary for them to decide whether they could challenge it, PTI reported.

The bench repeatedly asked Sibal whether any purpose would be served if the two MPs were given a copy of the administrative order passed by the CJI for setting up of the five-judge bench.

Sibal said only after getting a copy of the order could they decide whether or not to challenge it. However, when the bench showed reluctance to accept his arguments and submissions, the senior advocate decided to withdraw the petition.

The two Congress MPs had on Monday moved the apex court challenging the rejection of the 'impeachment' notice against the CJI by Naidu, claiming that the reasons given were "wholly extraneous" and not legally tenable.

(With PTI inputs)