Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court on Thursday avoided the ignominy of becoming the first judge to be impeached by Parliament by tendering his resignation.
Fifty-three-year-old Justice Sen sent in his resignation to President Pratibha Patil five days before the Lok Sabha was to take up an impeachment motion against him.
The Rajya Sabha has already passed the motion making him the first judge to have been impeached by the Upper House for misconduct. In his letter to the President, Justice Sen said, "I am not guilty of any form of corruption".
"There is no allegation against me that I am guilty of passing any order or judgement for extraneous consideration or that I have abused my power in any way so that my family or relatives or acquaintances have amassed wealth, but sadly I am still facing a motion of impeachment," he said.
The judge said in the anxiety to take definitive action against corruption, even a judgement passed by a division bench of the High Court was being completely brushed aside with the remark that the judges had favoured him.
Justice Sen who dismissed the charges against him said, "I do not come from a family of judges or politicians". The judge said he had given up a fairly lucrative practice not to amass wealth by resorting to corruption but to serve the august institution being the judiciary and consequently the nation.
Justice Sen, in a separate letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, said, "I wonder whether my issue is the real issue of corruption and abuse of power by people in high places or I am being made a sacrificial lamb in the alter of justice as a showcase to tell the nation that at least something has been done to clean the institution from corruption".
The judge admitted that he may have made "mistakes" as a junior advocate 19 years back but went on to ask, "who is above making mistakes, no human being is infallible, but to accuse me of dishonest intention as a judge or otherwise I firmly repudiate".
Justice Sen said like in the Rajya Sabha, he will not get a chance to respond to submissions made by members in the Lok Sabha in his absence and hence "it appears to be a foregone conclusion".
Along with the letter Justice Sen gave a point by point rebuttal to three allegations against him made during the Rajya Sabha debate. "I have decided not to go to the Lok Sabha and instead put in my papers," Sen, who was to have appeared before the Lok Sabha on September 5, said.
Justice Sen was found guilty of misappropriating Rs 33.23 lakh under his custody as a court-appointed receiver in the capacity as a lawyer, and misrepresenting facts before a Calcutta court in a 1983 case.
After a seven-hour long process marked by a brainstorming debate on August 18, the Rajya Sabha had overwhelmingly approved the impeachment motion against Justice Sen.
189 members of the 206 present in the 245-member House voted in favour, recording well over 2/3rd majority required for such a move. The impeachment, first time in the Rajya Sabha and second n Parliament's history, saw members of all parties, except Bahujan Samaj Party, holding Sen guilty of misconduct.
Appearing before the Bar of the House, 53-year-old Justice Sen had denied any wrongdoing and argued that he was a "victim". The judge had appealed to members to vote by conscience.
Impeachment proceedings were undertaken after an Inquiry Committee, set up by Rajya Sabha Chairman, held Justice Sen guilty of misconduct.
Justice Sen, who became a permanent judge of the Calcutta High Court in December, 2003, had blamed former Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan of targeting him by becoming the accuser, prosecutor and a judge.
The judge said he was even threatened in former CJI's drawing room with a Central Bureau of Investigation enquiry when he declined the offer to take VRS and a plum posting in return for his resignation.
The impeachment proceedings followed motions moved by Sitaram Yechury (Communist Party of India-Marxist) and Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley who made it clear that Justice Sen's continunace as a judge had become untenable.
Following receipt of Justice Sen's resignation letter, the Lok Sabha Secretariat said the Attorney General would be consulted on the issue. Justice P D Dinakaran, Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court, against whom the Rajya Sabha Chairman had set up a judicial panel to enquire into allegations of corruption, had resigned on July 29 this year, before impeachment proceedings could be initiated against him.
The first such case involved the impeachment motion in Lok Sabha of Justice V Ramaswami of the Supreme Court in May 1993 which fell due to lack of numbers after Congress members abstained.