The process of impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen was set in motion on Thursday with the Rajya Sabha secretariat sending to him a copy of the inquiry committee report, which has held him guilty of misappropriation of public funds and for making false statements.
Sen could go down in history as the first judge to be removed from office by impeachment if the proceedings against him in Parliament go through with majority support.
A day after the voluminous report of the three-member panel was tabled, indications are that Parliament could take up the impeachment proceedings against the Calcutta High Court judge in this session itself. The issue figured in the business advisory committee meeting of the Upper House whose 57 members had given a motion to Rajya Sabha chairman and vice president Hamid Ansari for the removal of the judge on February 20, 2009.
Communist Party of India leader D Raja suggested to the chairman that he could coordinate with Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar so that the issue could be considered in this session itself. The committee, headed by Supreme Court judge B Sudershan Reddy, had found Sen guilty of misappropriating large sums of funds, misrepresenting and making false statements regarding it.
The committee said the charges of "misappropriation of large sums of money" which Sen received in his capacity as receiver appointed by the Calcutta HC and misrepresenting facts with regard to it were "duly proved". The next step in the process is to fix a date for consideration and discussion of the motion and the talk in Parliament circles is that it could take place in the Rajya Sabha on November 29.
The motion would be discussed in the House under rules, which requires voting. Sen would be given an opportunity to defend himself either in person or through his counsel before the House. This has to be decided by the business advisory committee. The judge or his counsel could speak immediately after the mover has moved the motion. Thereafter, he would withdraw himself from the House.
The first-ever impeachment initiated against a judge --V Ramaswami who retired as an SC judge in 1994 -- failed after the motion collapsed on the floor of the Lok Sabha in 1993 following abstentions by the Congress. The impeachment process had catapulted noted lawyer Kapil Sibal, now the Union human resource development minister, to national limelight for his spirited defence of the judge. Care was taken to see that Sibal did not enter the House because he was not a member.
Sen's lawyer made it clear that the judge will not resign and that the committee's findings would be contested.