Impeachment of an HC judge: India

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Justice Soumitra Sen's case

Indian Kanoon

Panel chargesheets Justice Sen

Set Up By RS Chairman, 3-Member Committee Asks Him To Respond By May 5

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN

New Delhi: Justice Soumitra Sen, a sitting judge of the Calcutta High Court facing an impeachment motion, has been served with a chargesheet by the inquiry panel set up the Rajya Sabha chairperson after it found, prima facie, that allegations of financial irregularities could be made out against him.

The panel, headed by Justice B Sudershan Reddy, a judge of the Supreme Court, and comprising chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Justice Mukul Mudgal and noted jurist Fali S Nariman, went through the documents relating to the scam alleged against Justice Sen and issued a chargesheet asking him to respond by May 5.

The panel, which had spurned the offer of the Union government to hold its proceedings in a five-star hotel due to paucity of space keeping in mind the huge expenses involved, went through the Calcutta HC judgment and that of the in-house committee appointed by CJI K G Balakrishnan, both of which had indicted him.

With the issuance of the chargesheet, Justice Sen would now have to prepare his defence and present it before the three-member inquiry panel, which hopes to conclude its proceedings by June-end and submit a report to the Rajya Sabha chairperson. This report would form the basis of the debate in Parliament on the impeachment motion pending against Justice Sen since February last year.

The impeachment motion was initiated by the government on the advice of the CJI, who had written to the PM suggesting the course of action in August 2008.

Justice Sen, who was appointed as a judge of the Calcutta HC on December 3, 2003, was found by the CJI-appointed three-judge in-house inquiry committee guilty of misappropriating sale proceeds to the tune of Rs 24 lakh in the 1990s in a case where he as an advocate was appointed as receiver. He was later directed to deposit Rs 52 lakh by the HC, which on the judicial side found him to have acted in a corrupt manner. In addition, he had allegedly unauthorizedly taken out Rs 25 lakh from another account and invested it elsewhere. Though he had paid back the money, the in-house committee had noted in its February 6, 2008, report to the CJI that “mere monetary recompense under the compulsion of judicial order does not obliterate breach of trust and misappropriation of receiver’s funds for his personal gain”.

The in-house committee had concluded: “The conduct of Soumitra Sen had brought disrepute to the high judicial office and dishonour to the institution of judiciary, undermining the faith and confidence reposed by the public in the administration of justice.”

On March 16, 2008, the apex court collegium gave a personal hearing to Justice Sen and reiterated its earlier advice — resign or take voluntary retirement on or before April 2. However, Justice Sen in his letter dated March 26, 2008, expressed his “inability to tender resignation or seek voluntary retirement”.

This made the CJI write to the PM on August 4, 2008, saying, “I write this to recommend that the proceedings contemplated by Article 217(1) read with Article 124(4) of the Constitution be initiated for removal of Justice Soumitra Sen, Judge, Calcutta High Court.”

RS votes to remove HC judge

A first: RS votes 189-17 to remove HC judge

MPs Bow To Mood Against Corruption

Akshaya Mukul TNN

New Delhi: Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court is set to become the first-ever judge to be removed after the Rajya Sabha on Thursday adopted an impeachment motion with more than two-thirds majority, the only instance of its kind.

Although the motion has to be adopted by the Lok Sabha, the outcome may not be different, considering the support of all major political parties for Sen’s removal. The timing of the debate, coming when Parliament’s will and capacity to fight corruption has been questioned, also virtually ensures that Justice Sen will be the first judge to be removed.

In the Rajya Sabha, the motion was carried by 189 votes in support and 17 against — thus meeting the requirement that the vote should be supported by twothirds of members present, the turnout in the House not being less than half the total strength.

Support for Sen came from BSP, which in a surprise last-minute move, decided to break ranks from the rest. Members of Trinamool Congres absented themselves, in what was perhaps a move to align itself with any sympathy for Sen in Bengal.

The Lok Sabha will debate the matter for two days from August 24. This is the first time that a motion for removal of a high court judge has been successful in any House of Parliament. In 1993, the motion to remove Justice V Ramaswami failed in the Lok Sabha as the judge reached an understanding with the P V Narasimha Rao government that he would quit if he was spared the embarrassment of being removed.

Sen, who valiantly defended himself, has decided not to take the Ramaswami route. The outgoing judge, who declared in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that he was not a quitter, told TOI after the motion was passed that he would defend himself in the Lok Sabha as well.

With a powerful presentation on Wednesday, Sen seemed to have carried the day, before leader of opposition Arun Jaitley blasted holes in his defence. The judge was perhaps also handicapped by the timing of the debate. With corruption acquiring an unprecedented resonance, MPs cutting across party lines were loath to leave any room to be perceived as soft on graft.

Ls To Now Decide On Impeachment

The Process

To initiate impeachment, 50 Rajya Sabha MPs or 100 LS MPs have to sign the motion. Then, a panel of 2 judges and a jurist reports its findings. If found guilty, the judge can represent his case before Parliament debates motion

What Next?

RS has passed impeachment motion against Sen with requisite support of two-third members present and voting. It now goes to LS. If passed there, the 2 Houses will send an address to the President seeking Sen’s removal


Justice Sen is accused of misappropriating funds entrusted to him as an advocate in two cases, and misrepresenting facts in court


Sen said the alleged embezzlement took place when he was an advocate, not a judge. The money was returned and he was exonerated by Calcutta HC Counter | Arun Jaitley said even temporary misappropriation is criminal. Court judgment in Sen’s favour was collusive and he returned money only when ordered by court

Earlier Bid

The only previous impeachment motion, in the Lok Sabha, was against Justice V Ramaswami of the Supreme Court in May 1993. It fell due to lack of numbers after Congres MPs abstained. Kapil Sibal, then a senior advocate, presented Justice Ramaswami’s case in the Lok Sabha

PM hails opponents for stand against judicial overreach

New Delhi: The political class’s resentment over “judicial overreach” formed a powerful sub-text of debate in the RS on impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen. Speakers took the opportunity to ask the judiciary not to encroach on the domain of the legislature and the executive.

While moving the motion, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury had suggested that the impeachment motion was an opportunity for RS to signal its tough anti-corruption intent. “Apart from other things, he (Sen) is also the victim of timing”, remarked a senior Cabinet minister, saying that many judges had got away with worse.

The cross-party sentiment favouring the impeachment was evident from the way PM sat through the proceedings. The mistrust and rancour between government and opposition was put on pause for two days. After the voting, Singh walked up to Yechury and thanked him for “upholding the original values of the republic”. He also endorsed Arun Jaitley’s remark that judiciary could not be allowed to make policies. The anger of political class against the judiciary could be seen as speakers questioned the system of judges appointing judges and demanded a National Judicial Commission.

Judge’s Defence

In RS, Soumitra Sen said former CJI K G Balakrishnan was biased against him Cases related to a time when he was an advocate and not a judge In misappropriation case, Calcutta HC had exonerated him SAIL lawyers agreed that strictures passed against him should be removed

The Case Against Justice Sen

As a receiver for SAIL in a dispute case, Sen (then an advocate) misappropriated sale proceeds. Received Rs 33.22 lakh, which he deposited in two accounts. From one account, he issued cheques to individuals and even paid for his credit card As special officer for disbursement of workers’ dues to the tune of Rs 70 lakh, he withdrew Rs 25 lakh and deposited it in another company For paying the workers, withdrew Rs 25 lakh from SAIL account. Did not submit accounts to the court. Ignored a number of court notices Misrepresented facts about these cases before Calcutta HC

Jaitley’s Counter

Under section 403 of IPC, even temporary misappropriation is criminal conduct The judgment in Sen’s favour by HC division bench was collusive For three years after he became an HC judge, Sen did not respond to HC notices. He paid up only after strictures were passed

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