New Delhi: Justice Soumitra Sen of the
Calcutta High Court could be the first judge in the country to
be removed, with the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday overwhelmingly
approving impeachment motion against him.
As many as 189 members voted in favour of the motion to
impeach the 53-year-old Judge after a two-day debate on the
issue, in the second case in Parliament`s history and the
first-ever in the Upper House. 17 members voted against.
All parties except BSP were of the view that Sen was
guilty of misappropriating Rs 33.23 lakh which were under his
custody as a court-appointed receiver in the capacity as a
lawyer and misrepresenting facts before a Calcutta court.
Impeachment proceedings followed motions moved by Sitaram
Yechury (CPI-M) and Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley
after an Inquiry Committee, appointed by the Rajya Sabha
Chairman and headed by Supreme Court Judge B Sudershan Reddy,
held Sen guilty of misbehaviour.
Sen yesterday appeared before the House and strongly
defended himself arguing that he was a "victim" and appealed
to members to vote by conscience. The House, however, rejected
With the Rajya Sabha giving its nod for removal of Justice
Sen, the impeachment motion will now be taken up by the Lok
Sabha next week with the Lower House expected to deliberate on
it on August 24-25.
As per the Constitution, a sitting judge of High Court or
Supreme Court can be removed only by impeachment by both
Houses of Parliament with majority present and two-third of
them voting in favour.
While putting motions to vote, Chairman Hamid Ansari said
this required a special majority.
The case in which Sen was held guilty dates back to 1983
relating 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 full 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 does not exonerate him of his guilt.
Among those who participated in the debate were Leader of
the Opposition Arun Jaitley, E M Sudarsana Natchiappan (Cong),
Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP), N K Singh (JD-U), D Raja (CPI)
and noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani.
Replying to the debate, which started yesterday, Yechury
said Sen had given "false and misleading" statements to the
House despite presence of authenticated documents.
He said the motions do not reflect on the integrity of the
entire judiciary but they only strengthen the judiciary, which
is "besmirched" by misconduct of one judge.
Yechury rejected Sen`s contention that he had no money for
himself and said even diversion of funds amounted to
misappropriation under Section 403 of Indian Penal Code.
He alleged that Sen was guilty of "omission and
Yechury noted that the motion reflected the "general mood"
in the country against corruption and in the midst of all,
Parliament has risen to the occasion to establish its
supremacy that it can resolve such issues.
He also appreciated the "rich debate" that had taken place
on the issue, during which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was
Opposing the motions, Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) said
the charges against Sen have not been "proven" and there has
been "no misappropriation" of funds by him and hence he should
not be removed.
Continuing his speech which remained inconclusive
yesterday, Jaitley said Sen had "misled" the House about his
case by hiding the "truth".
Inquiries by committees set up by Chief Justice of India
and the Rajya Chairman have brought to light the fact that
there were series of withdrawals from bank accounts through
cheques and cash by Sen both as a lawyer and as a judge, the
BJP leader said.
It was a "fit case" for removal of the judge and that the
House should recommend so to the President, he said.
At the same time, he expressed concern over questions
being raised over conduct of some judges and stressed the need
for revisiting the process of appointment of judges and
suggested setting up of a National Judicial Commission for the
Taking part in the debate, E M Sudarsana Natchiappan
(Cong) supported the motions, saying he "felt sorry" the way
in which the serving judge was attacking the Judiciary as such
words were never even used in the Parliament.
The motions were supported by JD(U)`s N K Singh, who said
Sen had "sought to make a false hiatus" in the House to garner
He said time has come to expedite the judicial reforms
process and stressed the need for setting up of a judicial
Favouring Sen`s impeachment, Y P Trivedi (NCP) said he did
not support Sen`s assertion that other judges facing charges
against them have escaped punishment.
Kishore Mohanty (BJD) said there was a doubt with Sen`s
intention and he should not have been elevated as a judge in
the first place.
Noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani (BJP) attacked Sen and asked
members not to be misled by his eloquence which he said had
nothing to do with morals. Sen should go, 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," he said.
Calling upon members for supporting the motions,
Jethamalani said, "Let us set a good precedent today so that
judges with similar bent of mind get a message that they
cannot get away with such things."