Sen impeachment: RS to be converted into a court



New Delhi: Rajya Sabha will be converted into a court next Wednesday when it will take up for the first time in its history impeachment proceedings against a sitting judge--Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court.

The controversial judge, who has been held guilty on corruption charges by a panel appointed by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, will be given one and a half hours time to present his case before the Upper House.

The 53-year-old judge is yet to intimate to the authorities in Parliament whether he will appear in person or send a lawyer to represent him.

After hearing the judge or his representative who will appear before a bar that will be raised at the entrance of the House facing the Chair, the Rajya Sabha will deliberate on the matter which could turn into a debate on the issue of judicial activism and overreach.

Before this exercise, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury will move the impeachment motion against the judge.

The motion's text reads as: "This House do consider the report of Inquiry Committee in regard to the investigation and proof of the misbehaviour alleged against Soumitra Sen, High Court of Calcutta, which was laid on the table of the House on November 10, 2010".

Though the motion seeking the removal of Justice Sen was admitted by Ansari on February 15, no date for the discussion had been fixed.

A sitting Judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court can only be removed through impeachment by both Houses of Parliament with a two-thirds majority of MPs present and voting in favour of the motion, according to the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968.

This is the second time in the history of Parliament that proceedings have been initiated for removal of a judge. The first involved Justice V Ramaswami of the Supreme Court in May 1993 which fell through in the Lok Sabha.

Justice PD Dinakaran, Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court, against whom the Rajya Sabha chairman had set up a judicial panel to inquire into allegations of corruption against the judge resigned on July 29.

Decks were cleared in November last year for impeachment proceedings against Justice Sen with a judicial committee set up by Ansari finding him guilty of misappropriating "large sums" of funds and making false statement regarding it.

In this case, the impeachment motion was not taken up so far by the Rajya Sabha as the Act makes it clear that it must be passed by both Houses during the same session. The current session will conclude on September 8.

The three-member committee, in its report placed in both Houses of Parliament, had held Justice Sen "guilty of misbehaviour" under Article 124(4) read with proviso (b) to Article 217(1) of the Constitution of India."

The Committee, headed by Supreme Court judge B Sudershan Reddy, said the charges of "misappropriation of large sums of money" which Sen received in his capacity as receiver appointed by the Calcutta High Court 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.

Sen's indictment paves the way for Parliament to take up impeachment of the judge who has been found guilty of collecting Rs.33,22,800 from a purchaser of goods, keeping it in a Savings Bank account and misrepresenting facts to the High Court.

As per the Judges Inquiry Act, the motion will now have to be moved in the Rajya Sabha and debated upon. After the Upper House adopts the motion, it would go to the Lok Sabha for approval.

The decision followed an impeachment motion moved by Yechury and 57 other members of the Upper House.

The inquiry committee, which included Punjab and Haryana High Court judge Mukul Mudgal and noted Supreme Court lawyer Fali S Nariman, had submitted its report to Ansari on September 10.

PTI