In Part 1, we looked at two instances in which our Constitution framers invoked the American Constitution while debating impeachment provisions of the Draft Constitution. Specifically, on what grounds should the President be impeached, and if both houses of parliament should have the power to initiate impeachment. In Part II, we look at one more strand of the debate.
Draft Article 61 stated that when one house initiates impeachment proceedings and formally charges the President, the other house would investigate these charges.
Kazi Karimuddin moved an amendment proposing that these investigations should be supervised by the Chief Justice of India and not the regular presiding officer (Speaker). He wanted such an arrangement for two reasons: first, the impartiality of the Speaker in an impeachment investigation cannot be relied upon and second, the nature of investigations would involve questions of fact, admissibility of evidence and other legal aspects, which was best handled by a judicial officer. There were other members too, who wanted the Draft Article to give the Chief Justice presiding powers.
Ambedkar had no ‘quarrels’ with the idea of having the Chief Justice presiding over impeachment investigations. However, he felt that this did need not be mentioned in the Constitution. This could be left for future legislatures to include in their rules of procedure.
In the end, this proposal, along with those mentioned in the previous Part I, was not adopted by the Assembly.
It is indeed quite striking, that when the Constitution framers discussed the impeachment of the President, most of the substantive concerns voiced, and proposals to change the Draft Article, invoked the American system. The American system was indeed considered as an option at the Committee stages, but it was the Irish constitutional arrangement that was adopted. Efforts of Assembly members to Americanize the Draft Article failed.
In the midst of debating the impeachment provision, there was an interesting and combative exchange with regards to the influence of foreign constitutions in the Indian constitution-making process. K.T. Shah during the course of his arguments insinuated that the Drafting Committee was merely borrowing provisions from other countries. Ambedkar responded to the ‘dig’:
But I thought Prof. K. T. Shah forgot that if there was any person so far as I am able to see, who has practised slavish imitation of the Constitution of the United States, I cannot point to any other individual except Prof. Shah…I thought his whole scheme…bodily borrowed with commas and semi-colons from the United States Constitution, and when he was defeated on his main proposition, his worship of the United States Constitution has been so profound, so deep, that he has been persisting in moving the other amendments which, as he himself knows, are only consequential and have no substance in themselves…
Leaving aside Ambedkar’s direct response to Shah, he made it clear to the Assembly that the Drafting Committee, in the interest of the country, had no qualms about ‘borrowing from other constitutions wherever they have felt that the other constitutions have contained some better provisions than we could ourselves devise’.