Judicial Reforms

[op-ed snap] Acting against a judge


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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968

Mains level: Recent issues related to working of judiciary



  1. The failed bid to initiate the impeachment process for the removal of Chief Justice of India has also drawn attention to the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968

Requirements under the Judges (Inquiry) Act

  1. A procedural statute, it regulates “the procedure for the investigation and proof of the misbehavior or incapacity of a judge of the Supreme Court or of a High Court and for the presentation of an address by Parliament to the President and for the matter, connected therewith”
  2. It covers the stages between the admission of the removal motion and the address of the motion in the Houses of the Parliament

Committee to inquire Charges

  1. Section 3 describes the investigation into the charges by a committee of three members, who would be selected by the Chairperson or Speaker
  2. Once formed, the committee will frame definite charges against the judge on the basis of which the investigation is proposed to be held

The beginning of the trial

  1. Such charges, together with a statement of the grounds on which each such charge is based, shall be communicated to the judge.
  2. The judge will then be given a reasonable opportunity to present a written statement in his or her defence within the time specified by the committee.

Misbehavior yet undefined

  1. It is left to Parliament to decide what constitutes proved misbehaviour from case to case.

Proving Incapacity

  1. In case the judge denies that he or she is unable to discharge the duties of office “efficiently” due to any physical or mental incapacity, the committee will arrange for the medical examination of the judge by such medical board as may be appointed for the purpose by the Speaker or Chairman.
  2. If the judge refuses to undergo the examination considered necessary by the medical board, the board shall submit a report to the committee stating the case.
  3. The committee may, on receipt of such report, presume that the judge suffers from physical or mental incapacity as alleged in the removal motion.
  4. The committee may, after considering the written statement of the judge and the medical report, if any, amend the charges. In such a case, the judge would be given a reasonable opportunity of presenting a fresh written statement of defence

Government intervention

  1. The government, if required by the Speaker or the Chairperson, can appoint an advocate to conduct the case against the judge
  2. The judge must also be given an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses

Concluding the Investigation

  1. At the conclusion of the investigation, the committee is to submit a detailed report to the Speaker or Chairperson
  2. If the report has a finding that the judge is guilty of any misbehaviour or suffers from an incapacity, then, the removal motion shall, together with the report of the committee, be taken up for consideration by the House or the Houses of Parliament in which it is pending


Impeachment of a Supreme Court Judge

  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 leveled 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
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