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Reviewed by Jul 18, 2022| Updated on
In literal sense, the term impeachment refers to the act of questioning the integrity or validity of something. You must have heard or read in the news that a serving official has been removed from the position he was in and all his powers and responsibilities have been taken away on certain grounds. This is what impeachment implies. Although the term is widely used in the United States where it mainly refers to the charge of misconduct made against the holder of a public office; this term also has its importance in India and is important to understand while studying the constitutional processes in India. This is why to understand this term better we will go through the basics of this term and have a brief look at how and when it is used in India.
The term impeachment refers to the process which is followed when deciding the removal of a person in position and taking away all his powers and responsibilities that come with the position. The whole process that goes in taking away a position from this person in power and banning him from exercising any of his powers and responsibilities is called impeachment.
In countries like the United States where there are federal Presidential constitutional republic governments, the word impeachment is used to describe the charge of misconduct made against a public office holder. This usually applies to the President, judges of the judicial court and other constitutional positions.
Although this term is widely used and exercised in the United States, the term also has its importance in India where it is commonly used in two contexts including the impeachment of the President of India and the impeachment of the Supreme Court judge. If the President of the country or the Supreme Court judge is accused of any misconduct while they hold the position of power, then the impeachment process is conducted through which these concerned authorities can be removed from their positions before their tenure is over.
Removing someone in such a powerful position is no cakewalk and there needs to be strong charges against the concerned person which is then followed by a proper process to verify if these charges are valid. This process is impeachment. Only after the impeachment is complete can the person in power be removed from his or her position and stopped from exercising the powers and responsibilities that come with the concerned position.
The procedures for impeachment of the President of India and that for the Supreme Court judge differ from each other and are laid down by the constitution of India. The impeachment proceedings against the President of India can be initiated by the house of parliament, that is Lok sabha or Rajya Sabha, where a two-thirds majority is required for the process to begin. On the other hand, the impeachment of the Supreme Court judge is done by the President’s order. This order however, also needs the approval of both the houses of parliament including the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.
As we already discussed above, the impeachment of the President of India and the Impeachment of the Supreme Court judge are the two contexts in which the term impeachment in India is used. The procedures for both these impeachments are laid down by the constitution and are different from each other. Let us go through each of them one by one to understand the procedures a little better.
The procedure for the impeachment of the President of India has been laid down by the constitution of India; although no President till date has had to face the impeachment procedure. If the President is found to be guilty of misconduct and charged for it then he might lose all his powers and may be removed from the Presidential position before his tenure comes to an end. This misconduct can be anything that violates the constitution of India and whether the President is guilty for the same will be decided by the Houses of Parliament.
The process of impeachment can begin in either of the houses of parliament—lok sabha or Rajya sabha. The impeachment procedure begins by the houses levelling up the charges against the president. These charges are then presented in a notice which needs to be signed by at least quarter of the house members. This notice is then sent to the President 14 days before it is taken up for consideration.
The house in which the impeachment proceedings begin must have a majority of its members, that is two third of its members making the impeachment resolution on the President for the notice to go forward to the other house. After this, the other house starts with the investigation of all the charges made against the President.
The president on the other hand has every right to defend himself through an authorised counsel and try to prove his or her innocence in the ongoing proceedings. In case the President successfully defends himself and the second house makes a decision that the charges aren’t valid to take him off his duties, the President will continue his tenure. However, if the second house also levels up the charges made against the President, the President will stand impeached. In the latter case, the President should vacate his office from the date of passing the resolution.
The Supreme Court also holds the power to enquire and decide disputes or ambiguities about the election of the President based on the Article 71 (1) of the Constitution of India. According to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, the Supreme Court can remove the President from his or her powers for electoral misconduct or becoming ineligible for Lok Sabha member.
The impeachment of the Supreme Court judge and other judges is laid down by the Article 124 (4) of the Constitution of India. The removal of a Supreme Court judge can take place by order from the President. Such an order also requires the approval of both the houses of parliament. Any misbehaviour that violates the constitution of India or incapacity to perform his or her role with dedication, are the grounds on which the impeachment takes place. This misconduct is brought to light after the submission of the notice to the speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. A detailed investigation is carried out by the committee of three jurists. The investigation report is then submitted in the next session of the Houses of Parliament.