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Rajya Sabha Panel Recommends Impeachment Of Calcutta High Court Judge Sen

NEW DELHI : THE three-member committee constituted by Vice President and Rajya Sabha chairperson Hamid Ansari to probe charges against Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court is learnt to have recommended Sen's impeachment,
PTI September 11, 2010 15:17 IST
PTI
NEW DELHI : THE three-member committee constituted by Vice President and Rajya Sabha chairperson Hamid Ansari to probe charges against Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court is learnt to have recommended Sen's impeachment, reports The Indian Express.

The panel comprising Supreme Court Justice B Sudershan Reddy, Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal and jurist Fali S Nariman submitted its report to Ansari on Friday evening.

The committee had been constituted on March 20, 2009 to investigate the grounds on which the removal of Sen had been sought by CPM MP Sitaram Yechury and 56 other members of the Rajya Sabha. Sen has not been performing judicial work for over two years.

It is learnt that the panel concluded that the charges against Sen had been found to be true and merited his removal from judgeship. The panel is said to have refused to buy his argument that he should not be impeached as the irregularities committed by him dated back to the time when was just a lawyer and had not been elevated to the Bench.

The panel is learnt to be of the view that even though Sen had been held guilty of having committed financial irregularities when he was lawyer -as a court appointed receiver, he allegedly misappropriated sale proceeds to the tune of Rs 24 lakh and was later directed by the HC to deposit Rs 52 lakh -his act continued even after he was appointed a judge of the HC.

He returned the money after he had become a judge and that too after he was directed to do so by the HC. In its report dated February 6, 2008, sent to the CJI, the in-house committee had observed that “mere monetary recompense under the compulsion of judicial order does not obliterate breach of trust and misappropriation of receiver's funds for his personal gain”. The in-house committee had also concluded: “The conduct of Soumitra Sen had brought disrepute to the high judicial office and dishonour to the institution of judiciary, undermining the faith and confidence reposed by the public in the administration of justice.”  

On March 16, 2008, the Supreme Court collegium, which gave a personal hearing to Sen, asked him to resign or take voluntary retirement on or before April 2, 2008, which he refused to do.

In his letter dated March 26, 2008, Sen expressed his "inability to tender resignation or seek voluntary retirement", following which, on August 4, 2008, the previous CJI K G Balakrishnan wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, recommending Sen's impeachment under Article 217(1) read with Article 124(4) of the Constitution.  

Incidentally, during hearings by the three-member panel, Sen's lawyer had questioned the constitutionality of the impeachment proceedings. He had asserted that the impeachment motion could have been initiated only on complaints of irregularity or misdemeanor against a sitting judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court.  

Since Sen's act was committed when he was a lawyer, the question of impeaching him did not arise, the lawyer said. To day, after the panel submitted the report, sources in the Vice President's Secretariat told The Indian Express that the report would be placed before both Houses of Parliament in the winter session for further proceedings under the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.

Under Article 124(4), which provides for the procedure for removal of a sitting judge of the Supreme Court or the HC, a judge of the SC can be removed on the orders of the President.  

The orders of the President are passed “after an address by each House of Parliament supported by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting has been presented to the President in the same session for such removal on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity”.