Constitutional provision for the Supreme Court judge impeachment/removal is contained in Article 124(4) and 124(5). However, Constitution uses the word “impeachment” only for the removal of President of India under Article 61.
Article 124(4) provides for the Supreme court judge impeachment. The president can remove Judge after an address by each house of the parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of the House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of each House present & voting has been presented to the president in the same session.
Grounds for the removal of judges are proved misbehaviour and incapacity.
Parliament under Article 124(5) may by law regulate the procedure for the presentation of an address and for the investigation and proof of misbehaviour or incapacity of a judge. Accordingly, the parliament in 1968 passed Judges(inquiry) Act. Under this Act, a motion seeking the Supreme court judge impeachment can be preferred before either House of the Parliament. If it is to be introduced in the Lok Sabha, it should be signed by not less than 100 members of the Lok Sabha and in Rajya Sabha by not less than 50 members of the Rajya Sabha. The motion can be moved only after the expiry of 14 day notice served on the judge. After introduction of the motion the presiding officer of that House shall appoint a three-member judicial Committee to inquire into and provide proof. The head of the judicial Committee shall be a serving judge of the Supreme Court and other member shall be a serving member of a Supreme court or a High Court and the third member may be an eminent jurist.
The Judge has right to defend himself or through the counsel before the judicial committee. The Committee submits its report to the presiding officer of the House in which the motion has been introduced. Parliament may or may not act upon the report of the committee. But, if the judicial committee failed to establish proof of misbehaviour or incapacity than Parliament cannot take the motion. After the motion is passed in the originating House with the required majority it moves to the other House which should also pass it with same majority. Upon presenting to the President in the same session of the Parliament in which address has been passed, the President shall pass the order for the Supreme Court judge impeachment.
Judges against whom Impeachment proceedings had took place over the years
- V Ramaswami was the first judge in the independent India against whom impeachment proceedings was initiated for the misuse of his power as the Chief justice of Punjab & Haryana Court. He was caught in controversy for spending extravagantly on his official residence. In 1993 motion was brought up in the Lok Sabha but it failed to secure required two-thirds of majority and at that time he was judge of Supreme Court.
- In 2009, Rajya Sabha moved a motion for impeachment of Calcutta High Court Judge Soumitra Sen for his involvement in financial misappropriation. Probe panel was set up by Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari. It was headed by SC judge Justice B Sudershan Reddy and had as its members Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal and noted Jurist Fali S. Nariman. On 18 August 2011, Rajya Sabha passed the impeachment motion by overwhelming majority of 189 votes in favour and 17 against. He resigned before the removal procedure in Lok Sabha in sept 2011.
- Another such motion was initiated against Chief Justice P. D. Dinakaran of Sikkim High Court against whom Rajya sabha chairman had set up a judicial panel to look into allegations of corruption. He resigned before removal proceedings could be initiated in july 2011.
- In 2015, a group of 58 Rajya Sabha MPs moved impeachment proceedings against Justice J. B. Pardiwala of Gujarat High court for his “objectionable remarks on the issue of reservation”. However after the motion was sent to presiding officer (Hamid Ansari) the judge removed the wordings from his judgement.
Article 218 (for the removal of a High Court judge) of the Constitution.