Judicial Reforms

How is the Chief Justice of India impeached?


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Structure, organization & functioning of the Executive & the Judiciary

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Impeachment process of judges

Mains level: Recent issues related to working of judiciary

Motion to impeach Chief Justice of India

  1. Opposition leaders met Chairman of the Rajya Sabha to hand over a motion to impeach Chief Justice of India
  2. The Chairman of the Rajya Sabha is the Vice President of India
  3. This is not the first time impeachment has been mentioned in the same sentence as a sitting judge

Can a judge be impeached?

  1. 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
  2. This is not the first time impeachment has been mentioned in the same sentence as a sitting judge

Procedure for impeachment

  1. 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”
  2. 100 Lok Sabha MPs or 50 Rajya Sabha MPs is the minimum number of signatories required to issue the notice
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. This committee will consist of a senior Supreme Court judge, a High Court judge and a ‘distinguished jurist’ — who is a highly qualified law professor who has been appointed as a Supreme Court judge by the President of India

What happens after the investigation?

  1. The three-member committee has to support the motion for it to be sent back to the House where it was introduced
  2. In the House, it has to be discussed and passed with a special majority — not less than two-thirds
  3. This means, in case of a full House seated, at least 364 Members should have voted for the motion in the Lok Sabha, and 164 Members in the Rajya Sabha
  4. This will then pass on to the other House where it has to be passed by special majority again
  5. Once it passes both the Houses of Parliament, the President can be approached to remove the Chief Justice of India

Can CJI continue working while the motion of impeachment is in the process?

  1. Both the Constitution and the Judges (Inquiry) Act of 1968 are silent on whether a judge facing impeachment motion should recuse from judicial and administrative work till he is cleared of the charges against him
  2. Neither the law nor propriety requires the CJI to withdraw from work
  3. Until the Rajya Sabha Chairman makes up his mind to admit the motion and refer it to an Inquiry Committee under the 1968 Act, things will be as usual for the CJI
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