A good augury

The way has been cleared for the impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta high court with the finding of the inquiry committee appointed by the Rajya Sabha that he is guilty of misconduct warranting his removal as a judge. It is a good augury that now there is a chance of taking action against a judge who has invited serious charges of misdemeanour and corruption unbecoming of his position. The committee, headed by a supreme court judge and consisting of a high court chief justice and an eminent jurist, has found that the judge is guilty of misappropriation of over Rs 33 lakh and misrepresentation of the facts. The judge’s contention that the charges relate to his action as a receiver of the high court before his appointment as a judge is not acceptable as his conduct showed that he did not have the personal integrity required of a judge. The fact that the matter came out into the open only after his appointment as a judge again exposes the inadequacy of the present system of judicial appointments, which has received much adverse attention.

If Justice Sen is impeached, it will be the first time that parliament takes the most extreme action prescribed against an errant judge of the higher judiciary. The first-ever impeachment  motion, against a Punjab and Haryana high court judge, Justice V Ramaswami, in 1993 was abortive as the Congress party refrained from supporting it.

This was unfortunate, as there was convincing evidence of misdemeanour on the part of Ramaswami. No extraneous consideration should influence the stand of political parties with regard to Justice Sen’s impeachment. The enquiry committee has noted that his conduct has brought dishonour and disrepute to the judiciary and shaken the faith and confidence of the people in it. The government and leaders of all parties should immediately  take a decision on the matter and impeach the errant judge in the current session of parliament.

The successful impeachment of the judge will send a warning to other judges also who are under a cloud, like Justice P D Dinakaran and Justice Nirmal Yadav of two other high courts. It will also be a deterrent for others in a climate of increasing doubts about the integrity of many judges. The proceedings have taken too long, and that again makes a case for a faster and more effective system to punish the black sheep in the judiciary.

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