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Procedure for impeachment of Supreme Court Judge (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains Paper II; Polity & Governance)

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

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

Communication of charges to the judge
Such charges, together with a statement of the grounds on which each such charge is based, shall be communicated to the judge. 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. 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.

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. The committee may, on receipt of such report, presume that the judge suffers from physical or mental incapacity as alleged in the removal motion. 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.

Examination of charges
The government, if required by the Speaker or the Chairperson, can appoint an advocate to conduct the case against the judge. The judge must also be given opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. At the conclusion of the investigation, the committee is to submit a detailed report to the Speaker or Chairperson. If the report has a finding that the judge is guilty of any misbehavior 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.

Provisions of Constitution 

Removal of Judges of Supreme Court
Article 124(4): A judge of the Supreme Court can be removed by the order of President, only on address by both the houses of the Parliament supported by majority of two-third of the members present and voting and not less than the majority of the total strength of the house on the grounds of proven misbehavior or incapacity.

Further the whole procedure of removal shall be completed in a single session. The condition of single session is laid down because during pendency of removal proceedings, the judge under question cannot function. As a result, the delay in removal proceedings hampers functioning of Judiciary. Further, the pendency of proceedings may be used to influence judges.

(Adapted from The Hindu and provisions of Constitution from PrepMate-Cengage Polity Book; Page 149)

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