Impeachment: Definition and Meaning

Top officials or head of the states are the most respectable and honourable post and responsible towards the whole country; hence, their removal is not an easy task. In fact, there must be some proper channel and procedure in which consent of all officials/legislators must be taken and only then removal decision is made. Technically, this process i.e. the removal of top official of the state is known as “impeachment.” This procedure is used to hold elected officials accountable for their activities and guarantee that they serve the public interest.

Meaning of Impeachment

Impeachment is the legal procedure by which an elected person is removed from office. It is a constitutional device used to hold public officials accountable for their acts and safeguard the public from the misuse of power. The word "impeachment" is derived from the Latin word "medicare," which means to bind or fetter. This relates to the notion that impeachment is a means of controlling corrupt elected authorities.

Impeachment Provision in India

In India, impeachment is the constitutional process for removing the President, Vice President, and Supreme Court and High Court judges. In India, impeachment proceedings must be initiated by a notification signed by at least 100 Lok Sabha members or 50 Rajya Sabha members.

  • The notification must specify the official's charges and be given to the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha respectively. If the notice is admitted, a committee of three members, consisting of two judges and one jurist, will initiated an investigation.

  • If the committee determines that the official is guilty of the accusations, a motion for impeachment is brought to the member's house. The motion must receive support from a two-thirds majority of the present and voting members.

Comparative Comparison of the United States

Impeachment is a procedure used to remove the President, Vice President, and other civil authorities from their positions in the United States. The House of Representatives initiates the impeachment process in the United States by investigating the charges against the official and voting on whether to impeach. The Senate operates as a court of law and decides whether or not to remove the individual from office if the House votes to impeach. The Senate must vote with a two-thirds majority to remove the official from office.

Impeachment in the different form of Government

Impeachment is a legal procedure for removing elected officials from office on the basis of significant allegations of misbehaviour. Yet, impeachment procedures might differ based on the system of government in place. This page discusses the impeachment procedure in parliamentary, presidential, and semi-presidential systems, among others.

Parliamentary Procedures

It includes −

  • In parliamentary systems, the legislature typically initiates the impeachment procedure. This is due to the fact that the head of government is usually a member of parliament and is responsible to the legislature. In these systems, impeachment is used to remove the head of government for substantial allegations of malfeasance, such as a prime minister.

  • In parliamentary systems, the impeachment procedure typically requires a vote of no confidence. This is a vote in the legislature to assess whether the head of government still enjoys majority support. Typically, the head of government must resign if the vote fails. In some instances, a formal impeachment procedure may be launched, which typically comprises an investigation by a parliamentary committee and presentation of its findings to the legislature. If the government's leader is found guilty by the legislature, they may be removed from office.

Presidential Techniques

  • In presidential regimes, the legislature often initiates the impeachment procedure. In contrast to parliamentary systems, the president is not answerable to the legislature in the United States. The president is instead elected separately by the people and is typically regarded as both the head of state and the head of government.

  • In presidential systems, the impeachment procedure often entails a formal procedure launched by the legislature. Often, this entails a committee of legislators investigating the claims and submitting their conclusions to the entire legislature. The president may be removed from office if the legislature judges him or her guilty. In certain instances, however, the president may have the authority to dissolve the legislature and call for new elections, which can complicate the impeachment process

Semi-Presidential Systems

With aspects of both parliamentary and presidential systems, semi-presidential systems are a hybrid form of government. Under these systems, the president is typically chosen separately by the people, while the prime minister is appointed by the president and is responsible to the legislature. In semi-presidential systems, the impeachment procedure can vary based on the unique system in existence.

Method of Impeachment

The impeachment procedure differs based on the country and the rank of the impeached official. Yet, there are a few stages that are followed in the majority of instances. These steps consist of −

  • Introduction of motion (impeachment).

  • Investigation - An investigation is done to acquire information and decide if the charges against the official are supported by sufficient evidence.

  • If sufficient proof exists, charges are brought against the official. A trial is conducted to determine whether or not the official is guilty of the charges.

  • If the official is judged to be guilty, he or she is dismissed from their position.

Instances of Impeachment

In India, there is no evidence of any impeachment, as till date, no President is impeached. However, in the United States, it can be evidenced four times – first time, in 1868, the President Andrew Johnson was impeached; second time, the President Bill Clinton was impeached in 1998, and third and fourth time, the President Donald Trump was impeached. Donald Trump was impeached twice, first time in 2019 and 2021.


Likewise, impeachment is a necessary accountability measure for elected officials. Removing a public person from office is a legal and political process that needs thorough examination of the facts and potential repercussions. The history of impeachment demonstrates that it has been used sparingly but effectively to punish significant misbehaviour by elected leaders. In democratic nations, impeachment is a vital component of the system of checks and balances.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. For what reasons can an elected official be impeached?

Ans. An elected person can only be impeached for significant claims of misconduct, misbehaviour, or incapacity such as power abuse or criminal conduct, etc.

Q2. Who can commence the impeachment process?

Ans. Typically, the impeachment procedure is initiated by the legislatures of the nation or state where the official serves.

Q3. What are the consequences of impeachment?

Ans. The result of impeachment – if successful then the respective official will be removed from the office and if it is failed to score the majority vote, then the respective official will continue his position until his retirement.

Updated on: 13-Apr-2023


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