New Delhi, Feb 15: The stage has been set for the impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court with Rajya Sabha Chairman Mohammad Hamid Ansari admitting a motion for a discussion on the report of the inquiry committee set up by him under the Judges (Inquiry) Act 1968, reports The Indian Express.
This is the second case in the history of the country in which Parliament has initiated proceedings for the impeachment of a judge. The first pertained to Justice V Ramaswami.
In Justice Ramaswami's case, his case was pleaded in Lok Sabha by lawyer Kapil Sibal for the whole day, as a brass bar was put inside the House and the Lok Sabha members asked questions. The impeachment resolution was debated for two days, with luminaries like Somnath Chatterjee and George Fernandes participating. Utlimately, the impeachment resolution fell, as the then Narasimha Rao government decided to abstain, and the required majority could not be arranged.
The notice for the “no-day-yet-named motion” was given by CPM floor leader Sitaram Yechury, who spearheaded the drive for the removal of Justice Sen.The motion says: “This House do consider the Report of Inquiry Committee in regard to investigation and proof of the misbehaviour alleged against Shri Soumitra Sen, Judge, High Court of Calcutta which was laid on the table of the House on 10th November, 2010.”
The inquiry committee, headed by Justice B Sudershan Reddy of the Supreme Court and including the then Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Mukul Mudgal, and noted jurist Fali S Nariman, gave its report last September.
It followed an impeachment motion initiated by the Government on the advice of the Chief Justice of India, who had written to the Prime Minister suggesting the course of action in August 2008.
Earlier, an in-house inquiry carried out by a three-judge committee instituted by the Chief Justice of India had held Sen guilty of misappropriating sale proceeds amounting to Rs 24 lakh in the 1990s — while practising law — in a case in which he had been appointed a receiver. Sen was appointed a judge of the Calutta High Court on December 3, 2003.
The report of the committee appointed by the Rajya Sabha Chairman, placed in both Houses of Parliament, said it was of the opinion that Justice Sen was “guilty of “misbehaviour” under Article 124(4) read with proviso (b) to Article 217(1) of the Constitution of India.
The Committee said the charges of “misappropriation of large sums of money” which Sen received in his capacity as receiver appointed by the High Court of Calcutta 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.
The motion will be taken up in the Rajya Sabha, where the impeachment process started after 57 members, cutting across party lines, backed the move.