Calcutta HC judge faces impeachment ignominy

Calcutta HC judge faces impeachment ignominy

Congress may support removal proceedings against Justice Sen

Calcutta HC judge faces impeachment ignominy

The report of the three-member committee, which was appointed in March last year by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari to find out if impeachment proceedings could be initiated against Justice Sen who allegedly did not return Rs 33 lakh of a litigating party, found the judge guilty of “misappropriation of a large sum of money which he received in his capacity as receiver appointed by the High Court of Calcutta.’’

The committee was appointed by Ansari in March last year in the wake of an impeachment motion moved by CPM leader Sitaram Yechury and 56 other members of the Upper House. The committee comprised Justice B Sudershan Reddy of the Supreme Court, Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal and eminent jurist Fali S Nariman. If impeached, Justice Sen will enter the hall of ignominy for being the first judge in the history of the Indian judiciary to be removed from service by a parliamentary process.

Also, it will be the second time since Independence that Parliament would initiate impeachment proceedings to remove a judge. Earlier, similar proceedings were launched against former Supreme Court judge V Ramaswami, but could not be carried to its logical conclusion as the Congress did not support the motion.

However, the party has hinted that it could support the proceedings for maintaining “highest probity and integrity in public life.”  When the impeachment motion against Justice Sen was moved in the Rajya Sabha last year by Yechury and others, it was alleged that in 1984, he was appointed court receiver in a civil suit. In that capacity, Sen was in charge of funds which he was supposed to have been set aside in a separate bank account. Instead, even after being promoted judge, the money remained  in an account in his name. Sen was appointed judge of the Calcutta High Court in December 2003.

Yechury insisted that the proceedings must be undertaken during the current session which ends on December 13. The three-member judicial committee said in its 43-page report, which was submitted to Ansari on Wednesday, that Justice Sen made “false statements – misrepresented facts with regard to the misappropriation of money before the high court.’’

The report, which was later placed in both Houses of Parliament said: ‘’In view of the findings on charge I and charge II (of misappropriation and making false statements), the inquiry committee is of the opinion that Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court is guilty of ‘misbehaviour’ under Article 124(4) read with proviso (b) to Article 217(1) (for removal) of the Constitution of India.’’

After the account was detected and the case referred to a single judge bench of the Calcutta High Court, Justice Sen deposited Rs 57.65 lakh in 2006. At that time, the high court order held that Justice Sen had "misappropriated" the funds of which was the receiver.

Justice Sen was given a chance to defend himself before the committee during its hearing at Vigyan Bhawan here. In his defence, his lawyer said, ‘’A receiver appointed by a high court is answerable to the court which appoints him and no one else and therefore the inquiry committee could not inquire into the conduct of the receiver.’’

The beleaguered judge claimed -- vaguely and unconvincingly -- that at the time of appointment as a judge of the high court, his brother judges in the Calcutta High Court knew about his appointment as receiver.

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