The Chief Justice of India’s courtroom. (Source: Supreme Court of India website)

BQ Explains: How The Judicial Impeachment Process Works

Leaders of seven political parties met the Vice President of India and Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu to file an impeachment motion seeking the removal of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.

This is the first time in the history of independent India that a motion seeking the removal of the chief justice of India has been filed.

But what exactly is the process to be followed to remove the Chief Justice of India from his post as a judge of the Supreme Court?

Process Of Impeachment

The process of impeachment is described in Article 124(4) of the Constitution and the Judges (Inquiry) Act 1968. This process is the same for all judges of the Supreme Court and high courts of the country, including the Chief Justice of India.

A judge can be removed on the grounds of “proved misbehaviour or incapacity”.

Neither misbehaviour nor incapacity are defined, but would include any criminal activity or other judicial impropriety.

The steps are as follows:

  1. An impeachment motion against the judge needs to be raised in either of the Houses of Parliament. The motion can only be admitted by the Speaker in the Lok Sabha or Chairperson (by default, the Vice-President) in the Rajya Sabha if it has the required levels of support – 100 MPs in Lok Sabha or 50 MPs in Rajya Sabha. Sixty-four Opposition MPs in the Rajya Sabha have already reportedly signed the motion to impeach Chief Justice of India Misra.
  2. If the motion is admitted, a three-member committee is set up to investigate the allegations. The committee is to be made up of a Supreme Court judge, the Chief Justice of any high court, and a ‘distinguished jurist’ (read: judge/lawyer/scholar) nominated by the Speaker/Vice-President.
  3. Once the committee prepares its report, this has to be submitted to the Speaker/Vice-President, who then also shares it with the other House.
  4. Both Houses of Parliament then need to pass an ‘address to the President’, asking for the judge to be removed. To succeed, this needs to be passed by a two-thirds majority of the MPs present in each House during the vote, and must also exceed the 50 percent mark in each House.
  5. If both addresses succeed, then the President can remove the judge from his position by Presidential Order.

Also read: In A First, Political Parties Move To Impeach The Chief Justice Of India 

What Would Happen If The Impeachment Process is Started?

The only time the process has got as far as the final step was in the case of Justice V Ramaswami of the Supreme Court. In 1993, the final vote failed to get a two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha.

There is no clear convention over what happens when impeachment is moved against a judge. Propriety would suggest that they no longer take up any matters till the process is completed. For instance, under the In-House Procedure formulated by the Supreme Court in 1999, if a judge is found by the Chief Justice of India’s inquiry committee to be guilty of any impropriety, the standard practice is to not assign any judicial work to them – note that this is to happen even if impeachment proceedings are not initiated against the judge.

Also read: How A Quick Acting State Government Spared Judge Loya’s Death Further Inquiry

This is an extract of an article on The Quint.