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As the Presidential elections date of the United States, which is scheduled for 3rd November 2020, draw closer, the politics is taking a new turn. Recently, Donald Trump became the third President of the US to be impeached by the House of Representative.
Impeachment means formally accusing a public official with misconduct in the office, with the House of Representatives accusing the official and the Senate persecuting him/her. Thus, this procedure requires the US Senate to have a final say on whether Trump will get impeached or not.
Allegations against Donald Trump
There are two allegations which have been made against him. The first allegation is that Donald Trump abused his official powers in his capacity as the President for his personal gains by calling and asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, who has a business in Ukraine and many other countries. The second allegation is obstruction of Congress because the president allegedly refused to co-operate with the impeachment inquiry, withholding documentary evidence and barring his key aides from giving evidence.
The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already indicated that it might delay sending the articles to the Senate and hence set the stage for a trial in the US Senate in January 2020. It is important to note here that the Senate currently has 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and 2 independents who usually vote with the Democrats; for the Impeachment of Donald Trump to take place, 67 votes in total will be required, which cannot happen unless some Republicans vote against him. Since this is highly impossible, it is likely that Donald Trump will not be impeached.
Previous instances of impeachment in the US
The USA has already witnessed the impeachments of two of its Presidents – Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. The death of Abraham Lincoln in April 1865 out of the blue raised his Vice President Johnson, a candid racial oppressor but a solid enemy of secessionists, to the White House. With the post-quake tremors of the civil war showing in ridiculous voter concealment and racially spurred fear-based oppression over the South, Johnson’s administration was quickly tossed into tumult by requests that the new President find a way to solidify the war’s guarantee of racial fairness.
Johnson vetoed social equality enactment, singularly absolved many previous Confederate pioneers and required the homicide of his political foes. In spite of all this, the heft of the indictment provisos against him was predicated on a moderately thin charge of abusing a contemporary “residency of office” law by evacuating his secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, who was instrumental in contradicting bigot assaults on suffrage for previous slaves. Johnson stayed in office after being cleared in the Senate by one vote – a paid-off triumph according to some history specialists.
The second impeachment was of Bill Clinton in 1998. While the Clinton indictment is connected in mainstream memory to his association with the White House understudy Monica Lewinsky, he was impugned for misleading a stupendous jury in a different case, brought by a previous Arkansas state worker, Paula Jones.
In light of a lewd behaviour claim recorded by Jones, Clinton denied in a sworn statement and a later video meet that he had a sexual association with Lewinsky. That attestation was repudiated by a report submitted to Congress by autonomous guidance Kenneth Starr, who archived Clinton’s association with Lewinsky in offensive detail. Indictment procedures against Clinton were opened in October 1998, and the House of Representatives affirmed two articles of denunciation against him, for prevarication and check of equity, in December.
Two other proposed articles, for maltreatment of intensity and prevarication a subsequent time, were opposed. The Republicans drove Senate, and with a 55-seat larger part at the time, cleared Clinton effectively on the two checks, with the closer case drawing just 50 votes out of 67 required.
Legal principles involved
The process of Impeachment is based on the doctrine of the Rule of Law. It lays down that law is the supreme force and hence the government must act according to law and within limits of the law. It is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials.
It primarily refers to the influence and authority of law within society, particularly as a constraint upon behaviour, including behaviour of government officials. One of the major implications of the rule of law is ‘equality before the law’, that is, equal subjection of all citizens (rich or poor, high or low, official or non-official) to the ordinary law of the land administered by the ordinary law courts. The law of impeachment ensures that no one is above the law, even if the person is President of the country.
Impeachment in the Indian Constitution
The Indian Constitution also provides for the impeachment process on the lines of the USA Constitution. The president and judges, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and High Courts, can be impeached by the Parliament before the expiry of the term for violation of the Constitution. Other than impeachment, no other penalty can be given to a President in position for the violation of the Constitution under Article 361 of the constitution.
However, a President, after his/her term/removal, can be punished for his already proven unlawful activity of disrespecting the Constitution, etc. No president in India has faced impeachment proceedings. Hence, the provisions for impeachment have never been tested.
The American President Donald Trump had stated in a rally that the Democrats are declaring their deep hatred towards him and disdain for the American voters. Both the Republicans as well as the Democrats are taking the sides of their parties.
The decision of the US Senate would be very important from the voter’s point of view in the USA. But we must remember here that in the Senate, two-thirds majority voter count is required to convict, and as it stands, this is unlikely given that Mr Trump’s party controls the chamber. It is highly unlikely then, albeit not impossible, to impeach President Donald Trump.
Author: Shekhar Kanwar from NALSAR University of Law.
Editor: Ismat Hena from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia.