President accepts Justice Soumitra`s resignation

There is speculation that the impeachment proceedings against Justice Soumitra Sen in Lok Sabha scheduled for tomorrow may be dropped.

New Delhi: Government on Sunday night took the
unusual step of notifying the resignation of Justice Soumitra
Sen of the Calcutta High Court, strengthening speculation that
the impeachment proceedings against him in the Lok Sabha
scheduled for tomorrow may be dropped, but there was no
official confirmation of such a move.

Justice Sen`s resignation after he had been impeached by
the Rajya Sabha last month and just ahead of similar
proceedings in the Lok Sabha has created a piquant situation
for the Government.
The predominant legal view is that the proceedings in the
Lower House have been rendered infructuous by the judge`s
resignation but some voices in the political spectrum still
favour going ahead with the process.

In the normal course, such a notification is not required
since the resignation of a constitutional authority is deemed
to be accepted if it is in order.

"The Department of Justice has sent a notification for
the assent of the President for acceptance of Justice Soumitra
Sen`s resignation which was signed after she arrived here from
Hyderabad," official sources said.
Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar was being informed about
the developments and she may consult various political parties
before taking a final call prior to the meeting of the House

The talk in political circles was that the impeachment
proceedings may not take place in the Lok Sabha tomorrow but
there was no official word on it.

The sources maintained that the Justice Sen`s
resignation, received by the President`s office yesterday, was
in order.

This means a cautious approach was being maintained on
the issue as the judge`s initial resignation sent by fax had
created a piquant situation.

As yet there has been no change in the List of Business
of the Lok Sabha for tomorrow where the impeachment motion is
still on the agenda.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati had opined on Friday that
the impeachment proceedings, having already been completed in
the Rajya Sabha, should be completed by the other house.

This opinion appears to have been based on the premise
that the resignation letter faxed by Sen to Rashtrapati Bhavan
on Thursday could not be taken cognisance of since such
letters must be written in the hand of the judge as per Art
217 (a) of the Constitution.

That criterion was fulfilled on Saturday and as
constitutional expert P P Rao noted, "impeachment proceedings
are intended to remove a judge from the post. But once he has
resigned you cannot remove him. Therefore, the proceedings
become infructuous."

When contacted, CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia said his
party would ask the Government for its stand in the light of
the AG`s opinion.

Another expert K K Venugopal said that once a High
Court judge submits resignation it would operate straightaway.
However, if the resignation mentions a prospective date, it
is open to a judge to withdraw it before it is accepted."

However, former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subash
Kashyap was of the opinion that, "if the resignation is found
to be mala fide, the President may say this is only to avoid
(impeachment) proceedings in which case she may allow the Lok
Sabha to continue the proceedings."

He also said the Speaker would have to be guided by the
opinion of the Attorney General.


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