Kolkata HC judge questions RS panel's authority

Senior advocate Shekhar Naphade, who appeared for Justice Sen before the committee, said there was no obligation under the law for a judge of a high court to come to the witness box and give evidence when the probe pertained only to his conduct as a court receiver and not as a judge.

The committee constituted by Vice President Hamid Ansari comprises Supreme Court judge B Sudershan Reddy, Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal and noted jurist Fali S Nariman and has been hearing charges against Justice Sen. Naphade argued that the panel could not probe into the charges of financial misappropriation against Justice Sen. He said only the order of the high court division bench, exonerating him of any wrong-doing in his professional misconduct, could be challenged before the Supreme Court.

Advocate Siddharth Luthra, who appeared for the committee, had on Monday read out various entries of bank accounts held by Justice Sen in his personal and professional capacity as the court-appointed receiver and highlighted the alleged discrepancies. Justice Sen, before being appointed as a judge, had allegedly misappropriated funds to the tune of Rs 33.22 lakh as a court-appointed receiver in a case he was handling, said Luthra.

Justice Sen, who was appointed as the judge of the high court on December 3, 2003, deposited Rs 57.65 lakh in a bank in 2006, the amount allegedly received by him while he was a receiver.

A single judge bench of the Calcutta High Court, in its order, had held that Justice Sen had “misappropriated” funds.   However, a division bench of the high court set aside the findings of the single judge and pronounced him innocent. Justice Reddy wanted to know from the counsel whether the committee could give a report to Parliament that the motion (of removal proceedings) was invalid. He asked: “Can we say that this committee is not competent to look into the charges?”

Naphade said no authority, including the present committee, could go into the charges made against Justice Sen as a receiver of the high court as there was a constitutional bar under Article 215 (high Courts to be courts of record) and only an appeal under that order could be made in the Supreme Court.

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