April 23, 2018 / 6:47 AM / 7 months ago

India's vice president rejects opposition bid to impeach top judge

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India’s vice president on Monday rejected an unprecedented petition by seven opposition parties to impeach the top judge for “misbehaviour”, saying that the allegations were “neither tenable nor admissible”.

The decision of Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, who chairs the upper house of parliament, was a relief for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which had called it a “revenge petition” moved in response to a reprieve the ruling party’s chief won from the Supreme Court in another case.

The petition to impeach Chief Justice Dipak Misra for “acts of misbehaviour” and misuse of authority was signed by 64 serving members of the upper house. It had also accused him of arbitrarily using his power to allot sensitive cases and questioned his conduct in the acquisition of land.

“The allegations emerging from the present case have a serious tendency of undermining the independence of judiciary which is the basic tenet of the Constitution of India,” Naidu said in a signed order shared with journalists.

“Considering the totality of facts, I am of the firm opinion that it is neither legal nor desirable or proper to admit the notice of motion on any of these grounds.”

Misra came under a cloud in January when the four next highest-ranking judges in the Supreme Court criticised his distribution of cases and raised concerns about judicial appointments.

Misra was appointed last August and is due to retire in October. His office has said he would not comment on the impeachment motion.

The Congress party said it was not surprised by the ruling by Naidu, a former minister under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has accused the opposition of trying to use the impeachment move as a political tool.

A Supreme Court judge can be removed for misbehaviour or incapacity only by an order of the president after winning a majority in both houses of parliament and after obtaining at least two-thirds of votes from the house members in the same session.

Reporting by Nigam Prusty and Krishna N. Das; Editing by Nick Macfie

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