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Rajya Sabha okays Sen’s impeachment
Ajay Banerjee /TNS

New Delhi, August 18
Sending out a strong message against corruption in high places, the Rajya Sabha today voted for the removal of Justice Soumitra Sen, a Judge of the Calcutta High Court, for alleged misconduct by adopting an impeachment motion with an overwhelming majority.

As many as 189 members voted for the motion moved by CPM’s senior leader Sitaram Yechury while 17 members voted against it at the conclusion of two days of arguments on the motion, the first such to be taken up in the Upper House.

All parties, except the BSP, were of the view that the 53-year-old Judge was guilty of misappropriating Rs 33.23 lakh which was under his custody as a court-appointed receiver before becoming a judge. The members also felt Justice Sen had misrepresented the facts relating to the case before the Calcutta High Court.

Justice Sen will go down in history as the first judge to be removed if the Lok Sabha also adopted the impeachment motion next week.

As per the Constitution, a sitting judge of the HC or the Supreme Court can be removed only through impeachment in both the Houses of Parliament with majority present and two-third of them voting in favour. The matter is expected to go to the Lok Sabha for similar proceedings on August 24-25. The President will issue removal order once the impeachment proceedings go through the Lower House as well.

In 1993, similar proceedings had failed in the Lok Sabha against Justice V Ramaswami, a Supreme Court judge, who was tried for his alleged misconduct during his tenure at the Punjab and Haryana High Court. Then the Congress had abstained from voting, reducing the number of votes needed to impeach a judge. Incidentally, Union Minister Kapil Sibal who was then a senior advocate, had presented the case of Justice Ramaswami before the Lower House. Unlike Ramaswami, Justice Sen presented his case personally backed by two lawyers.

Replying to the debate today, Yechury said Sen had made "false and misleading" statements in the House, holding back the authenticated documents. He said moving the motion did not mean doubting the integrity of the entire judiciary. Rather, it would strengthen the judiciary, "besmirched" by the misconduct of one judge.

Rejecting Justice Sen's contention that he had not siphoned off any amount for himself, Yechuri said even diversion of funds amounted to misappropriation under Section 403 of the Indian Penal Code. He alleged that Justice Sen was guilty of the acts of "omissions and commissions".

Noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani (BJP) attacked Justice Sen and asked the members not to be misled saying “eloquence has nothing to do with morals. It is often the property of the biggest thieves and charlatans. Today glib-talkers are on the top of the world and people who cannot talk are nowhere." He said. "This man did not deserve to be a judge. Not only should this judge go, other judges who do such things should not remain for even one more day. Let us set a good precedent today so that the judges with similar bent of mind get a message."

The case in which Justice Sen is being held guilty dates back to 1983 and relates to a dispute between SAIL and Shipping Corporation. Sen was appointed receiver by the Calcutta High Court when he was a lawyer. The charges included that he diverted some money from the receiver's account to his personal investment in a private company, which went bust.

Even after his elevation as a Judge in 2003, he did not disclose the details to the court. Although in his defence, he said that the money was paid back to the workers, the Judges Inquiry Committees as also several members in the Rajya Sabha, including noted lawyers, said it did not exonerate him of his guilt.





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