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Centre to ask Parliament to impeach HC judge
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September 08, 2008 13:53 IST
Last Updated: September 08, 2008 15:44 IST

The government is preparing to move a motion in Parliament for impeachment of Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Sen, following Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan's recommendation for his removal on charges of 'misconduct'.

The CJI's suggestion for action against Justice Sen, who continues to be in office without any work being allotted to him, was sent in August to the Prime Minister's Office which, in turn, sent it to the Law Ministry for advice.

"I have received the papers a few days ago. We are examining them and preparing to take necessary action," Law Minister H R Bhardwaj said on Monday.

"The CJI has recommended initiating impeachment process so we shall have to go to the Parliament on the matter," he said.

"Nobody can stop it because the suggestion came from the CJI," he said. This will be the second-ever impeachment process against a member of the country's higher judiciary.

In the internal inquiry held by the CJI on the matter, Justice Sen was allegedly found to have indulged in a financial misconduct prior to his elevation. He is accused of receiving Rs 32 lakh as court-appointed receiver in a lawsuit between Steel Authority of India Ltd and Shipping Corporation of India [Get Quote] and deposited the amount in his personal account.

The CJI-appointed a three-member committee, which found Justice Sen guilty of misconduct in depositing the money in his personal account and preferring to retain it even after being elevated to the High Court in 2003.

The government will now move an impeachment motion either in Lok Sabha or in Rajya Sabha. The presiding officers of the Houses shall then set up a peers committee to look into the matter and if the charges are found true, both the Houses will have to pass the motion.

The Law Minister did not rule out the possibility of the impeachment process being taken up in the coming session of Parliament starting mid-October.

"The constitutional requirement for an impeachment motion having signatures of 100 MPs may not apply in this case as it will be a government motion," Bhardwaj said.

Ministry officials said the matter reached the impeachment stage because Justice Sen might have refused to put in his papers even after the CJI-appointed committee found evidence against his alleged financial misconduct.

The impending impeachment process against Justice Sen could be the second-ever such action against a member of the higher judiciary.

The first such action was initiated against Supreme Court Judge V Ramaswami in 1991 for misconduct in furniture purchase when he was the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court. The motion was admitted by the Speaker and a vote was called but the ruling Congress party abstained.

In Justice Sen's case, the CJI-appointed inquiry panel indicated that he erred by depositing in his personal account the Rs 32 lakh he received as a court-receiver and a practising advocate in the Calcutta High Court in 1993.

He allegedly retained the money, received in a lawsuit between SAIL [Get Quote] and SCI over supply of fire bricks, for over a decade and did not shift it to another bank account for safe custody.

In 2003, he was elevated to the High Court and he allegedly did not part with the money even then. It took a direction from the High Court in 2006 to force him to pay back the sum. In all, he deposited Rs 52.46 lakh with the court.

Justice Sen's move to keep the Rs 32 lakh received after the sale of fire bricks in his personal account was even challenged by SAIL two years after he became a High Court judge.

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