The opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) in RajyaSabha(Council of States) could initiate the proceedings for the impeachment of the President of India for violation of the Constitution in right earnest in this winter session of the Parliament. Article 61 of the Constitution of India details the procedure for impeachment of the President. One fourth of the total number of MPs in RajyaSabha have to sign the resolution in this regard. As per the breakup of voting on 5th August, 2019 in RajyaSabha 61 members had opposed the Jammu& Kashmir Reorganization Bill which aimed to split Jammu & Kashmir (J & K) into two union territories. This was countered by 125 members in favour of the resolution through a voice vote. The total number of members in RajyaSabha is presently 238 (out of 245 with 7 vacancies as per RajyaSabha website assessed on 20.11.2019).The magic figure of 60members to initiate the process of impeachment is already within reach. Firstly, in any case a large number of MPs who abstained from voting or secondly who were absent because they could not make it to Parliament because of suddenness of the Government’s move without adequate notice; or thirdly who supported the resolution would now likely join the opposition move because of the very undemocratic and unconstitutional way in which the Govt. of India went about its hatchet job clandestinely without consultation with Kashmiri people or the opposition parties. Moreover the latter (third) category of MPs do not approve of the total shutdown of all necessary services for months w.e.f. 5th August, 2019 viz fixed line phones, mobile telephone, internet, printing of newspapers; Section 144/indefinite curfew; closure of schools, colleges, markets; converting all of Kashmir into a chhaavanee (cantonment). Many opposition MPs who had voted in favour of the Govt. are now likely to sign the resolution for impeachment because the process of going about by the Govt. was totally unacceptable and undemocratic – which they have said now in as many words.
True, arithmetic may elude the successful passage of the resolution by a majority of not less than 2/3rdof the total membership of the RajyaSabha; but resistance through parliamentary route should be tried rather than surrendering to the might of majoritarianism right at the outset. This effort would be in addition to the judicial challenge in the Supreme Court of India; the number of public mass protests which have taken place; the pressure from United Nations and western countries and most importantly the resistance of the people of Kashmir. The process of impeachment has necessarily to begin from RajyaSabha where the first requirement of sixty MPs signing the resolution can be met. Then a full-fledged discussion follows; now that the opposition MPs have got a breathing space since the events of 5th August, 2019 onwards and that many of them shared a platform on 22ndAugust, 2019 at national protest site, JantarMantar, New Delhi, minimalist unity should be utilized to its maximum. This action of initiating impeachment proceedings will consolidate the opposition unity – action and work unites; ideology divides.
The discussion in RajyaSabha is bound to get reported widely since it would be the first time that impeachment of an Indian President would be taking place. The powers that be would be put in a defensive mode albeit for a while. At the end of the discussion in RajyaSabha voting is likely to go in favour of the ruling party; but this is no reason why even this resistance should not be put. Procedurally the issue would move to the LokSabha(House of the People) only if two-thirds of MPs in RajyaSabha vote in favour of impeachment. The other House, LokSabha, can then investigate the charge or cause the charge to be investigated. Even if defeated in RajyaSabha it acts as a major moral comment against the President of India i.e. no President is above the law.
Recent political developments have emboldened the opposition parties. The Shiv Sena has severed its ties with BJP. A coalition government in Haryana, too, is a climb down for BJP. The December 5 by-polls in Karnataka for 15 Assembly constituencies is predicted to be a dampener for the BJP. In Jharkhand the BJP is facing alliance trouble ahead of the Assembly polls. The allies of the saffron party are reportedly deserting the “sinking ship.”
Meanwhile the RajyaSabha is holding its 250th Session w.e.f. 18 November, 2019.Also 26 November is observed as the Constitution Day (National Law Day) every year to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution of India. Internationally our Prime Minister’s friend Donald Trump is facing impeachment proceedings. Initiating impeachment process would be the best tribute to the framers of the Constitution of India and People of Kashmir.
Dr. P. S. Sahni is a member of PIL Watch Group. His contact email is: email@example.com