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Complaint of ‘misconduct’ against Calcutta HC Judge Soumitra Sen
Government to initiate impeachment proceedings
R Sedhuraman
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 8
India is set to witness its second impeachment proceedings in Parliament against a Judge, with law minister H.R. Bhardwaj today confirming the complaint of ''misconduct'' against the Calcutta High Court Judge Soumitra Sen and stating that the government would start the process for his removal as recommended by Supreme Court Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan.

The minister made the comments in response to a report that Chief Justice Balakrishnan had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, recommending the impeachment of Justice Sen for depositing Rs 32 lakh in his personal account way back in 1993, when he was a court-appointed receiver in a lawsuit between the Steel Authority of India Limited and the Shipping Corporation of India over the supply of fire bricks.

Justice Sen, who was a lawyer then, was supposed to have put the money in a safe-custody bank account. He continued to have the money in his account even after being appointed a Judge of the Calcutta High Court in 2003 and returned it only after a High Court order in 2006. The Chief Justice of India sought the Prime Minister's intervention after the findings of a three-judge inquiry committee, set up under the Judges (Inquiry) Act 1968, and the Judge's refusal to quit.

The first impeachment proceedings against a Judge were held in 1991 to remove the then Supreme Court Judge V. Ramaswami for misconduct in the purchase of furniture when he was the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court. The move, initiated by former railway minister Madhu Dandavate, fell through in the Lok Sabha as the Congress abstained from voting.

The move against Justice Sen comes in the wake of several corruption complaints against the judiciary, including the Ghaziabad PF scam.

Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan said the present provision for the impeachment of judges was fundamentally flawed, as it took several years for the procedure to be completed. Also, the impeachment motion had to be signed by 100 MPs for acceptance and had to be carried with two-thirds majority in Parliament and with more than 50 per cent of the strength of the two Houses voting for it.

Even the Judges Inquiry (Amendment) Bill pending in Parliament would not make impeachment easier, Bhushan said and sought the setting up of a National Judicial Commission, independent of both the government and the judiciary, for dealing with such situations.

Legal experts also regretted the lack of transparency in the appointment of judges, which was responsible for the elevation of Justice Sen as the High Court Judge in 2003, 10 long years after his misconduct. Justice Sen was not allotted any work after the findings of the inquiry committee, but he would continue to get his emoluments.



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