New Delhi, Aug 14: Rajya Sabha will make history this week when it will seek to impeach Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court, who has been held guilty on corruption charges by a specially constituted committee. He will be the second judge in the country's history against whom impeachment proceedings will be initiated when Rajya Sabha takes up a motion on August 17.
The Upper House will be converted into a court for its first impeachment proceedings against a judge. The controversial judge of the Calcutta High Court or his representative will appear before the bar that will be raised at the entrance of the House facing the Chair. 53-year-old Justice Sen, who has been held guilty on corruption charges by a panel appointed by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, will be given 90 minutes to present his case.
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 which fell in Lok Sabha for lack of numbers.
Union Minister Kapil Sibal, who at that time was a senior advocate, had appeared for Justice Ramaswamy before the bar of the Lok Sabha. The Congress party, which headed the government then, decided to oppose the motion and voted against it.
After Mukherjee presents his case, Rajya Sabha will deliberate on the matter which could also trigger a debate on the issue of judicial activism and overreach. The proceedings are expected to spill over to August 18. Before the monsoon session began, there have been demands from several members and parties for a debate on the issue of judicial activism in the session that concludes on September 8 and the impeachment proceedings will provide an occasion for them.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury will set the ball rolling in the House by moving the impeachment motion against the judge.
The motion's text reads: “This House do consider the report of Inquiry Committee in regard to the investigation and proof of the misbehaviour alleged against Soumitra Sen, High Court of Calcutta, which was laid on the table of the House on November 10, 2010”.
The motion seeking the removal of Justice Sen was admitted by Ansari on February 15, but no date for the discussion had been fixed.
Justice P D Dinakaran, Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court, against whom the Rajya Sabha chairman had set up a judicial panel to inquire into allegations of corruption, resigned on July 29.
If Justice Sen resigns before the Rajya Sabha takes up the impeachment proceedings, the motion will become infructuous.
Decks were cleared in November last year for impeachment proceedings against Justice Sen with a judicial committee set up by Ansari finding him guilty of misappropriating “large sums” of funds and making false statement regarding it.
In this case, the impeachment motion was not taken up so far by the Rajya Sabha as the Act makes it clear that it must be passed by both Houses during the same session.
The three-member committee, in its report placed in both the Houses of Parliament, had held Justice Sen “guilty of misbehaviour” under Article 124(4) read with proviso (b) to Article 217(1) of the Constitution of India. The Committee, headed by Supreme Court judge B Sudershan Reddy, said the charges of “misappropriation of large sums of money”, which Sen received in his capacity as receiver appointed by the Calcutta High Court, and misrepresenting facts with regard to it were “duly proved”.
Article 124(4) when read with proviso (b) to Article 217(1) states that a judge of a high court shall not be removed from his office except on the grounds of ‘proved misbehaviour'. The prefix ‘proved' only means proved to the satisfaction of requisite majority of Parliament, if so recommended by the inquiry committee. Sen's indictment paves the way for Parliament to take up impeachment of the judge who has been found guilty of collecting Rs 33,22,800 from a purchaser of goods, keeping it in a Savings Bank account and misrepresenting facts to the High Court.
After the Upper House adopts the motion, it would go to the Lok Sabha for approval.
The decision followed an impeachment motion moved by Yechury and 57 other members of the Upper House.
The inquiry committee, which included Punjab and Haryana High Court judge Mukul Mudgal and noted Supreme Court lawyer Fali S Nariman, had submitted its report to Ansari on September 10 last year. PTI