Editorial✍ Hindu Edi

Impeachment of CJI

Context:

Group of Opposition MPs have submitted a notice for Chief Justice Dipak Mishra’s impeachment to the Rajya Sabha Chairman.

Significance:

It is the first time a sitting Chief Justice will face an impeachment notice in India’s constitutional history.

Present Status of the impeachment motion:

The law does not require the CJI to withdraw from work until the Rajya Sabha Chairman admits the impeachment motion and refers it to an Inquiry Committee under the 1968 Act, things will be as usual for the CJI,

What is impeachment:

1)Article 124(A) of the Indian Constitution along with the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 and the Judges (Inquiry) Rules, 1969 provides for the entire process of Impeachment.

2)The Article 124(4) of the Constitution says: “A Judge of the Supreme Court shall not be removed from his office except by an order of the President passed after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the grounds of proved misbehaviour incapacity.”

3)Impeachment is an extreme step to punish an errant judge.

4)An impeachment motion must involve clear incapacity or proven misconduct.

5)Impeachment is a legislative process where a decision is open to judicial scrutiny.

Impeachment procedure:

Step 1: A notice of motion is issued by 100 MPs from the Lok Sabha or 50 MPs from the Rajya Sabha. This motion for removal can be moved in either House.

Step 2: The motion can either be accepted or rejected by the Speaker/Chairman of the House.
Step 3
: If the three-member committee decides to support the motion, it is taken up for discussion in the House, where it had been introduced and must be passed by a special majority

Step 4: Once it is passed, it is taken up in the next House where again it needs to be passed by a special majority.

Step 5: After the motion is passed through both the Houses with two-third majority, the President of India is approached to remove the Chief Justice of India.

Why is it done?

1)The judiciary is the guardian of the Constitution and its guarantee of individual liberties.

2)Its independence is vital for other institutions and for the framework of checks and balances to remain in good health

Charges against Chief Justice Dipak Misra:

1)Denial of permission to CBI to register FIR against Allahabad High Court Judge.

2)Involvement in a case relating to an educational trust that allegedly involved the payment of illegal gratification,.

3)Antedated an administrative order so that it could be heard only in the CJIs court.

4)Allegations about acquiring land and surrendering it 39 years later

5)Abusing his power as “master of roster” to allocate matters to particular benches with likely intent to influence the outcome.

Why has nobody been impeached before?

1)The bar is set deliberately high on the admissibility of such a move because the consequences for the system can be destabilising and debilitating.

2)There is no restriction on the judge resigning during the impeachment proceedings.

3)Judge-politician nexus

Issues:

Both the Constitution and the Judges (Inquiry) Act of 1968 are silent on whether a judge facing impeachment motion should refrain from judicial and administrative work till he is cleared of the charges against him.

Consequences of Impeachment:

1)Impeachment proceeding by the opposition like at present will lead to politicisation of the courts.

2)Fear of impeachment would influence the judgements of the judges.

Way Forward:

Impeachment as a process to remove judges requires a re-look. For 60 years, it has not worked wherever it was needed. It requires serious deliberation on what alternative measures can be employed to bring about errant judges in line.


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