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Enough evidence to show Sen guilty, probe panel told

delhi Updated: Jul 19, 2010 01:43 IST
Nagendar Sharma

Justice Soumitra Sen has so far failed to provide a satisfactory explanation to disprove the allegations of misappropriation of Rs 33 lakh of public money against him, the probe panel investigating the charges against him was told on Sunday.

The three-member panel, set-up by the Rajya Sabha chairman, Hamid Ansari in March 2009 to probe the allegations against the Calcutta High Court judge, began the final hearing with a marathon 10-hour session. The panel would also scrutinise documents running into 4,000 pages.

Senior advocate, Sidharth Luthra, appearing as the counsel for the panel, insisted there was sufficient evidence to prove that the judge, facing an impeachment (removal) motion in the Rajya Sabha, had misappropriated "Rs 33 lakh public money" in 1984, before he was appointed a judge.

Justice Sen, who has consistently denied the allegations, would be represented by his lawyer on Monday.

"Justice Sen, before being appointed as the judge, has misappropriated the funds to the tune of Rs 33.22 lakh as a court appointed receiver," Luthra told the panel comprising Supreme Court judge B Sudershan Reddy, Punjab and Haryana high court chief justice, Mukul Mudgal and eminent jurist, Fali S Nariman.

"Some questions regarding the allegations could be best answered by the judge in question himself," Luthra submitted, pointing to the refusal by Justice Sen to appear himself before the probe panel.

Grilled by Nariman on how the allegations of misappropriation against the judge could be substantiated, the lawyer said, "Over Rs 57 lakh was deposited by Justice Sen in the receiver's account, but there was no evidence as to from where that money came from."

Luthra showed various entries of bank accounts held by Justice Sen in his personal and professional capacity as the court-appointed receiver, in a bid to highlight the alleged discrepancies.

The findings of the probe panel, formed by Ansari following an impeachment motion moved against Justice Sen by 58 opposition MPs in the Rajya Sabha, would decide the fate of the judge. In case the panel finds him guilty, the motion would be brought in both houses of parliament to sack him.

The case dates back to 1984, when Justice Sen, then an advocate, was appointed a receiver in a litigation between Steel Authority of India Limited and Shipping Corporation of India for the selling of imported goods by a public auction and keeping the sale amount in a bank.

Sen faces allegations of having sold the goods and kept Rs 33 lakh in his bank account. He allegedly neither submitted the accounts to the court nor refunded the money even after his appointment as a Calcutta High Court judge in 2003.

In his defence, Justice Sen did not use the court money for personal gain and that he had repaid the full amount with interest of Rs 24 lakh within the time stipulated by the court in 2006.

Justifying the withholding of the court's money even after his appointment as a high court judge, Justice Sen said the question of repayment by a receiver arises only when the court directs him to do so.