Impeachment

Jobs follow a strict lifecycle. Candidates are interviewed, evaluated and put on the job. If they are found unsuitable for the role or have been found to have committed a crime, they are fired.

While most jobs follow this structure, there is one that doesn’t. What happens when the most important and the most powerful person in the country fails to do his job? In other words, can the President of a country ever be fired?

Legislative bodies offer a solution in the rare cases when a President fails to discharge his duties diligently – impeachment. However, impeachment isn’t akin to firing. It is a series of steps that legislative bodies and courts conduct, to determine whether the President should retain his presidency or not.

The process

First, it’s important to know that impeachment isn’t solely restricted to the President. As per the covenants of the United States Constitution, any civil officer who fails to meet the expectations of his office can be impeached. Second, impeachment doesn’t result in immediate firing. An accusation is leveled against the concerned party and post-indictment, a lengthy procedure is followed which either can culminate in impeachment or acquittal.

An officer of the law can get impeached in four circumstances:

  • Treason
  • Bribery
  • High crimes
  • Other misdemeanors

If accused of any of these crimes, the process of impeachment is put into motion:

  • The call for impeachment
    As per the law, the demand for impeachment can come from any member of the public. However, the House of Representatives or the chamber of legislature is the only body which can initiate the proceedings.
  • Sitting of the committee
    The issue is referred to the in-house committee which comprises of key members of the judicial system. The committee members review the accusation placed against the concerned person. All evidence lodged is carefully examined and post-discussion the committee gives a recommendation regarding what should be done next.
  • Analysis of the articles of impeachment
    The evidence provided to prove the guilt of the accused must be sufficient for the committee to proceed with their prosecution. If enough evidence dictates guilt, the committee holds a separate meeting to analyze each of the charges leveled against the accused. These charges constitute the articles of impeachment – the grounds on which the officer would be impeached. If one or more of the allegations are passed by a vote of a simple majority, the officer is impeached and removed from his position of power.
  • The trial
    Select members of the House form the prosecutors and the accused and his lawyers become the defendants. The Senate hears the trail, evaluates the evidence and takes a decision. For Presidential and Vice-Presidential impeachments, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over the trial. Convictions require there to be a 2/3rd majority and result in immediate removal from power. As of today, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson have been the two impeached Presidents of the USA.