Impeachment process against MP HC judge gains momentum

Impeachment process against MP HC judge gains momentum

The process of impeaching a judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, accused of sexual harassment of a former woman additional District and Sessions judge, has gained momentum with Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari admitting a motion moved by 58 members of the House.

The MPs had earlier this month submitted the motion to Ansari for initiating the impeachment process of Justice S K Gangele of the MP High Court for alleged sexual harassment of the woman judge in Gwalior.

Posted in the Gwalior bench, Justice Gangele is now serving in the principal bench in Jabalpur. "The Chairman has, under section 3 of the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968, admitted the following Motion received from Shrimati Wansuk Syiem and other Members (total fifty-eight) the notice of which was given under Article 217 read with Article 124 (4) of the Constitution of India," a Rajya Sabha bulletin said.

The motion lists three "grounds of misconduct" for impeachment: "Sexual harassment" of the woman judge; "victimisation" of the judge "for not submitting to his illegal and immoral demands", including, but not limited to, transferring her from Gwalior to Sidhi; and "misusing" his position as the administrative judge of the MP High Court  to use the subordinate judiciary to victimise the judge.

The signatories include Digvijaya Singh (Congress), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M), Derek O' Brien (TMC), Ram Gopal Yadav and Jaya Bachchan (SP), Satish Mishra (BSP),  Anu Aga and H K Dua.

As per the provisions of the Judges Inquiry Act of 1968, the motion has been kept "pending" till "further action."

Under Section 3 (2) of the Act if the motion is admitted, the Speaker (of Lok Sabha) or the Chairman shall keep it pending and constitute an investigation committee consisting of three members.

One of them will be chosen from among the Chief Justice and other Judges of the Supreme Court, one from among the Chief Justices of the High Courts and one will be a person who is in the opinion of the Speaker or the Chairman a distinguished jurist.  The issue had hogged media headlines after the woman judge resigned on July 15 last year days after she was transferred to a remote district.

After resigning she had sent representations to the President, the Chief Justice of India and the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court on August 1 in which she had made serious allegations against the Justice.

Chief Justice H L Dattu has set up a three-judge committee for a thorough probe into the sexual harassment complaint against the Madhya Pradesh High Court judge after receiving a preliminary inquiry report on a complaint by a woman judicial officer.
If the Rajya Sabha takes up the impeachment motion, it will be the third such case in Parliament's history and the second in the Upper House.

Justice Soumitra Sen of Calutta High Court had faced impeachment proceedings in Rajya Sabha in 2011 for misconduct" and "misappropriation of funds" in the capacity of a Calcutta High Court receiver.

The Rajya Sabha had voted in favour of impeaching him and while the proceedings in the Lok Sabha were in progress, the judge resigned. Subsequently, the impeachment proceedings were dropped, taking into consideration his resignation.

Under the constitution, a judge of a high court or the Supreme Court can be removed by the President by a motion adopted in both the Houses of Parliament by two-thirds majority in the same session on "proved misconduct and incapacity".

The first such case involved impeachment of Justice V Ramaswami of the Supreme Court in May 1993 and the motion fell in Lok Sabha for lack of numbers.

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