How is the Chief Justice of India Impeached?

On Friday, April 20, 2018, Opposition leaders met Chairman of the Rajya Sabha M. Venkaiah Naidu to hand over a motion to impeach Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. Chief Justice Misra is the 45th Chief Justice of India and has been in his position since August 2017.

How can Parliament impeach a judge and a Chief Justice at that?

Just like all other constitutional positions, the Chief Justice of India can also be impeached provided the necessary steps as laid out in the Constitution are taken. This is not the first time impeachment has been mentioned in the same sentence as a sitting judge. Justice V. Ramaswami was the first judge against whom impeachment proceedings were initiated.

How will they go about it?

This is where the Constitution comes in. Article 124(4) of the Constitution of India states: “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 ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.”

100 Lok Sabha MPs or 50 Rajya Sabha MPs is the minimum number of signatories required to issue the notice.

Who gets this notice and what should they do?

The notice has to be handed over either to the Speaker if it is from Lok Sabha MPs or to the Chairman if it is Rajya Sabha MPs. The Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is the Vice President of India.

If and when the motion is admitted, the Speaker or the Chairman will have to constitute a three-member committee to investigate the charges levelled against the Supreme Court judge. This committee will consist of a senior Supreme Court judge, the Chief Justice of a High Court judge and a ‘distinguished jurist’.

What happens next?

The three-member committee will submit the report, and if the charges are confirmed it will be taken up for discussion in the House where it was introduced. In the House, it has to be discussed and passed with a special majority — not less than two-thirds. This means, in case of a full House seated, at least 364 Members should be have voted for the motion in the Lok Sabha, and 164 Members in the Rajya Sabha.

This will then pass on to the other House where it has to be passed by special majority again. Once it passes both the Houses of Parliament, the President can be approached to remove the Chief Justice of India.

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