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Impeachment of President


Impeachment of President
Impeachment of President

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Impeachment, as a mechanism for holding heads of state accountable, has evolved differently in England and India.


In England, impeachment has largely fallen out of use due to the increasing power of the House of Commons, which can effectively control and review the conduct of ministers. While the British monarch cannot be impeached, they remain removable if their actions are deemed unconstitutional or improper, as evidenced by the abdication of King Edward VIII.


In contrast, the Constitution of India allows for the impeachment of the President for violation of the Constitution. The process involves the charge being preferred by either House of Parliament, ensuring a mechanism for holding the President accountable for unconstitutional actions.


In the United States, impeachment proceedings against the President begin with charges brought by members of the House of Representatives, which are then investigated by a Special Committee. If the charges are deemed worthy, they are sent to the Senate, where the trial takes place. 


The Senate has the sole power to try impeachments, with Senators remaining under oath during the proceedings. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial in the Senate, ensuring fairness. A two-thirds majority of Senators present is required for conviction.


In contrast, in India, either House of Parliament can impeach the President by drawing up charges. The other House then investigates the charges, either sitting as a Court of Investigation or appointing an ad hoc Tribunal.


However, there is no provision for suspending the President during impeachment proceedings, and they continue in office until removal. 


The Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha presides over the final decision, which requires a two-thirds majority of the total membership of the investigating House.


Unlike in the US, there is no provision for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to preside over the proceedings, raising concerns about the impartiality and fairness of the process.

 
 

Grounds of Impeachment


The process of impeaching the President of India is outlined in the Constitution, which specifies "violation of the Constitution" as one of the grounds for impeachment.


However, unlike in some other countries such as Burma, Italy, France, Ireland, and the United States, where the grounds for impeachment are explicitly stated, India's Constitution does not provide a detailed definition of what constitutes a violation of the Constitution.


This lack of clarity has led to differing interpretations regarding the scope of impeachment in India. While some argue that only explicit violations of constitutional provisions warrant impeachment, others believe that actions such as disregarding the advice of Ministers could also be considered violations.


In contrast to India, in England, impeachment is a judicial proceeding against a Lord or a Commoner, primarily for offences like treason, felony, or other high crimes and misdemeanours.


The term "high crimes and misdemeanours" refers to offences for which no specific definition is provided in statutory or common law. 


Impeachment historically served as a means of trying "great political offenders" whose actions could not be addressed by ordinary legal mechanisms. It was also used to hold Ministers of the Crown accountable for conduct detrimental to the welfare of the State.


Overall, the lack of explicit guidelines in India's Constitution regarding the grounds for impeachment underscores the need for legal interpretation and clarification to ensure accountability and the rule of law.



Loopholes in the Impeachment Procedure


The procedure for impeaching the President outlined in the Indian Constitution appears complex and potentially ineffective in achieving its intended purpose. 


  • Charge Initiation: The charge may be initiated by either House of Parliament.


  • Resolution: A resolution containing the charge must be moved after at least fourteen days' notice and must be signed by not less than one-fourth of the total number of members of the House.


  • Summoning Parliament: If the concerned House is not already in session, it must be summoned for passing the resolution by a two-thirds majority.


  • Investigation: The resolution is then sent to the other House, which investigates the charge. The President has the right to appear and be represented at this stage.


  • Verdict: The investigating body delivers its verdict.


  • Resolution for Removal: If the investigation finds the President guilty, a resolution declaring the charge sustained must be passed by a two-thirds majority of the total membership of the investigating House.

 
 

However, several loopholes in this procedure raise questions about its effectiveness:


  • Delay Tactics: The President could potentially delay the process by not summoning Parliament or by proroguing or dissolving the House of the People.


  • Difficulty in Obtaining Majority: Even if the investigating body finds the President guilty, obtaining a two-thirds majority for passing the resolution for removal might be challenging.


  • Role of Second House: Involving the second House in passing another resolution with a two-thirds majority after the investigation seems redundant and complicates the process.


  • Legal vs. Political Decision: The impeachment process, initially a legal matter investigated by a judicial body, could ultimately be decided by a political jury, raising concerns about impartiality and fairness.


Overall, the impeachment process in India is perceived as slow, cumbersome, and potentially ineffective, to the extent that it may only be considered as a desperate measure, rather than a practical means of holding the President accountable.


Suggestions for Improving the Impeachment Process


  1. Automatic Summoning: A notice of impeachment signed by a majority of members of any House should automatically summon that House to meet exclusively for that purpose.

  2. Continuous Session: The House should remain in continuous session until the impeachment proceedings are complete, and the President should not have the power to dissolve the House during this period.

  3. Sequential Summoning: Upon passing the resolution in one House, it should automatically summon the other House, which will then remain in continuous session independent of the President's influence.

  4. Constitution of Investigative Committee: The House initiating impeachment should appoint a Committee comprising its own members elected on a proportional basis, with the Chief Justice of India as Chairman. The Committee's verdict should be final if decided by a two-thirds majority.


An impeachment carries significant implications for the President's political career and reputation, akin to a ruination. While impeachments may not occur frequently, the looming threat will continuously shape the President's actions.


Over time, as democratic norms solidify, the memory of impeachment may fade, mirroring the decline of impeachment's significance in Great Britain.


Ultimately, the President, like the Queen in England, will symbolise national unity, exercising limited powers strictly within constitutional bounds.

 
 

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