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Article 61: Impeachment of President

This article deals with election, power and removal of the president explaining in detail about the process of impeachment of the President.

We are all aware that our Constitution is divided into 25 Parts and Part V of the constitution deals with the 'Union Government' based on five chapters in which Chapter 1 is the 'Union Executive' which deals with the 'President and Prime Minister'. In this article, we are exclusively going to talk about the President of India. The President of India is the constitutional head of the Executive of the Union. We as students have always wondered about the role of a president and what India's president actually is for.

The Indian presidency is different from other presidencies in the world. Does the Indian president serve a purely ceremonial role? Going by the words of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, chairperson of the drafting committee of the Constituent Assembly of India, under the draft constitution the President occupies the same position as the King under the English Constitution. He is the head of the state but not of the Executive.

He represents the Nation but does not rule the Nation. He is the symbol of the Nation. His place in the administration is that of a ceremonial device on a seal by which the nation's decisions are made known.

The President of India holds many powers which include:
  • Legislative Powers
  • Appointment Powers
  • Executive Powers
  • Financial Powers
  • Judicial Powers
  • Military Powers
  • Pardoning Powers
  • Emergency Powers
So, considering the importance of the President in the Indian Parliamentary system, it would be inappropriate to say that the President is merely a rubber stamp.Now in this article, we are specifically going to deal with the process of removal of the President.

When can the President be impeached:

Article 56 deals with the tenure of the president which is supposedly five years unless:
  1. The president dies.
  2. The president resigns before the expiry of his tenure and the resignation would be to the vice president, also the resignation must be communicated to the Lok Sabha speaker by the vice president himself.
  3. The president is removed for the violation of the constitution and the process of impeachment is discussed in Article 61 of the Indian constitution. Impeachment of the president can be initiated by either house of the Parliament. However, Violation of the constitution has not been defined in the Constitution of India
  4. If the supreme court declares the election invalid.

Procedure for impeachment of President

Now coming back to Article 61, this article was introduced in 1948. Impeachment symbolises a major incident, that occurred if the President of an Indian nation violates the constitutional rule or fails to conduct any vital duty for the progress of the nation. Article 61 specifically deals with the process of removal of the Indian President.

Now to get a better insight into the impeachment of the president we will go step by step:
  1. A notice in the form of a resolution can be brought before any house of the Parliament.
  2. The resolution must be passed and signed by at least 1/4th of the total members of that house
  3. After its signed, then a written notice along with the copy of the signature of the members supporting the impeachment is sent to the president for him to know what are the allegation brought against him and at least 14days time is given to the president to present a defensive statement
  4. After that, a resolution has to be passed by a majority of not less than 2/3rd of the total membership of that house, in which the process of impeachment was initiated.
  5. After the resolution is passed, the other house investigates the charge,
  6. As charges get investigated, the president has the right to appear and defend himself.
  7. Now the other house which has investigated the charges shall have a vote with a majority of 2/3rd of total membership of that house.
  8. If the other house shall have the effect of removing the president from his office on the date when such resolution is passed by the Parliament.
Imprisonment of the President cannot happen. He is immune from any criminal proceedings, even when it comes to his personal acts. Only civil proceedings can be initiated for his personal acts, and that can be initiated by either house of the Parliament.

When a vacancy occurs in the office of Parliament, and the vacancy could be due to vacancy, resignation, removal, death, or otherwise, the vice-president acts as The President until a new President is elected. The vice president will be entitled for all the perks and salary of the President. In case both the President and the vice-president office is vacant, in that case the Chief Justice of India serves as an acting President. The election for filling the vacancy should be held within six months from the date of the vacancy.

Criteria For Filling Vacancy After Impeachment:
  1. If the term of office of the President has expired, then the election to fill the vacancy shall be completed before the expiration of the term.
  2. In case of the death of the president, resignation, or removal the election to fill the vacancy shall be held as soon as possible and in no case later than 6 months from the date of occurrence of the vacancy.
  3. Subject to provisions to Article 56, the person elected to fill the vacancy shall be entitled to hold office for the full tenure which is 5 years from the date in which he joins the office.

How is the president elected?

Unlike any election, the election to elect the president is very different. There is no direct election for electing the President.He is elected by an electoral college. The electoral college consists of only elected members:
  1. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
  2. Only legislative assemblies of the states and not legislative councils
  3. Legislative assemblies of the union territories

Article 51, Draft Constitution of India 1948:

  • Draft article 51(article 62, Constitution of India) was debated and lays down the procedure and conditions through which a vacancy will be filled.
  • Though it came with two objections from the members. The first one was mainly related to clause 2 of the article which dealt with the newly elected President's term: a new president would serve for 5 years irrespective of the term the last president served. According to the members, this would not let the president's and parliament's terms run parallel. This in turn would give the President an upper hand to influence elections to the parliament.
  • Another member argued that the draft in terms of an interim period made inadequate arrangements that lay the period between the removal/ death/ resignation of an old president and the election of a new president.
  • The chairman responded to these concerns. He stated that there is no valid reason why the new president should not hold office for 5years.

According to the Constitution, the conditions that one must complete to be eligible to become the President of India, are given below:

  1. Nationality: He is an Indian Citizen
  2. Age: Is 35years or above
  3. Qualification: should qualify as a member of the House of People(Lok Sabha)
  4. A person will not be eligible if:
    • He holds any office of profit under the Government of India or Government of any state, any local authority to the control of any of the said governments. If the candidate meets all the above criteria, then the nomination will be valid. The President of India is also eligible for re-election. Article 57 deals with the provisions of re-election.

We have always wondered what life would be as President of India. Our country has a parliamentary form of government but that does not mean that the President does not play an important part in running the country smoothly. The president is a vital part of the Union executive. And to top it all, the President has the Ordinance making power. Article 123 deals with this power. Among all the other legislative powers, this is one of them. The President enunciates an ordinance on the recommendation of the Union cabinet. The purpose of impeachment is not to punish individuals but it is to preserve the constitutional government.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
  1. Which article deals with the impeachment of the President?
    Article 61 deals with the impeachment of the president
  2. Which President of India was impeached?
    No president in India has been impeached, yet.
  3. What are the grounds to remove the President?
    President can be removed only on the ground of violation of the Constitution, however violation of the constitution has not been defined in the constitution
  4. What is Article 57 of the Indian Constitution?
    Article 57 deals with the eligibility criteria for the re-election of the President. Any person who holds, or has held the office of the President, subject to other provisions of the constitution, is eligible for re-election.
  5. Which one of the following is not correct regarding the Presidential election?
    1. Election of the successor must be held before the expiry of the term of the incumbent President
    2. The President shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office
    3. On the expiration of his term, he continues to hold office until his successor enters upon his office
    4. President's election may be postponed on the ground that the electoral college is incomplete
    Correct Answer: (4)
  6. Which of the following President appeared before the Supreme Court, when the Supreme Court was hearing the election dispute of the President?
    1. Dr. Zakir Hussain
    2. V.V. Giri
    3. Fakharuddin Ali Ahmad
    4. Neelam Sanjiva Reddy
    Correct Answer: (2)
  7. The President of India can be removed from his post by:
    1. The Prime Minister of India
    2. Lok Sabha
    3. Chief Justice of India
    4. Parliament
    Correct Answer: (4)
  8. Which one of the following is a part of the electoral college but not of the process of impeachment?
    1. Lok Sabha
    2. Rajya Sabha
    3. State Legislative Councils
    4. State Legislative Assemblies
    Correct Answer: (4)
  9. How many days prior notice is required to be given for the impeachment of the President
    1. 7 days
    2. 14 days
    3. 21 days
    4. 30 days
    Correct Answer: (2)

Written By Divya: A student of New Law College,Pune.

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