- In the Indian Constitution, Article 61 holds significant importance as it deals with the process of impeachment of the President of India.
- As the head of the state and the ceremonial representative of the country, the President holds a prestigious position.
- However, the Constitution lays down provisions for impeachment in case of any serious misconduct or violation of constitutional provisions.
- In this blog, we will delve into the details of Article 61 and explore the impeachment process, its significance, and historical instances.
Understanding the Indian Constitution
- The Indian Constitution, adopted on January 26, 1950, is a comprehensive document that outlines the rights, duties, and powers of the government, as well as its citizens.
- It provides a well-defined structure for the functioning of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government.
- Additionally, it also contains provisions to safeguard the principles of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity for all citizens.
The Role of the President of India
Qualifications and Election Process
- To hold the office of the President of India, a candidate must fulfill certain eligibility criteria.
- They must be a citizen of India, at least 35 years of age, and qualified to be a member of the Lok Sabha.
- The President is elected through an indirect electoral process, wherein elected members of both houses of parliament and state legislative assemblies participate in the voting.
Powers and Functions
- Although the President’s powers are mostly nominal and ceremonial, they play a crucial role in the functioning of the government.
- The President is responsible for appointing the Prime Minister, appointing the Chief Justice and judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, and representing India in international affairs.
- While the President holds a dignified position, the Constitution also provides for their impeachment if they fail to uphold the principles of the Constitution and engage in any actions unbecoming of the office.
Article 61: Impeachment of the President
Grounds for Impeachment
- Article 61 of Indian Constitution outlines the procedure for impeaching the President.
- The grounds for impeachment include “violation of the Constitution,” which covers acts that go against the principles of the Constitution, and “proved misbehavior,” which entails actions that are morally or legally wrong.
Initiation of Impeachment Process
- The impeachment process can be initiated in either House of Parliament, i.e., the Rajya Sabha or the Lok Sabha.
- A written notice containing the charges against the President must be signed by at least one-quarter of the total members of the house.
The Role of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha
- Once the notice is presented, it is the duty of the presiding officer of the house to examine the charges and decide whether they are substantial enough to warrant an investigation.
- If deemed appropriate, the motion is then sent to the other house for consideration.
Formation of an Investigative Committee
- If the charges are supported by the other house, a committee consisting of members from both houses, as well as an independent legal expert, is formed to investigate the allegations.
Voting and Removal Process
- After the committee submits its report, the matter is put to vote.
- A resolution for the President’s removal must be supported by a special majority, which requires the approval of at least two-thirds of the total membership of the house present and voting.
Joint Sitting of Both Houses
- If the motion is passed in one house, it is then sent to the other house for consideration.
- If the second house also approves the motion with a two-thirds majority, a joint sitting of both houses is convened.
Removal by Joint Sitting
- At the joint sitting, the motion is again put to vote, and for the President to be removed from office, it must be supported by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the total members present and voting.
Historical Cases of Impeachment
- Throughout India’s history, there has been only one instance of an impeachment motion being brought against a President.
- In 1993, an impeachment motion was initiated against President R. Venkataraman, but it was later withdrawn due to lack of adequate support.
Criticisms and Controversies Surrounding Article 61
- While Article 61 provides a mechanism to hold the President accountable, it has faced criticisms and controversies over the years.
- Some critics argue that impeachment proceedings can be misused for political gains and could potentially lead to a constitutional crisis if not handled carefully.
Lack of Clarity on “Proven Misbehavior”
- The term “proved misbehavior” lacks a precise definition in the Constitution, leading to varying interpretations and ambiguity.
Need for Amendments
- To address the shortcomings and to ensure a more transparent and foolproof impeachment process, there have been calls for amendments to Article 61.
- Article 61 of the Indian Constitution provides a constitutional framework for the impeachment of the President, ensuring that no individual, irrespective of their position, is above the law.
- The process laid down in this Article acts as a safeguard to uphold the principles of democracy, integrity, and constitutionalism in the country.
- Although impeachment proceedings have been rare in India, the existence of this provision serves as a reminder that the democratic system in the country rests on firm and accountable foundations.