The government on Monday said it would move a motion in Parliament for removal of Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Sen, 50, who allegedly misappropriated over Rs 50 lakh public money between 1993 and 1995.
Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj’s statement follows Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan's recommendation seeking “initiation of proceedings for removal” of Justice Sen after he refused to resign or take voluntary retirement.
If removed, Sen would be the first Judge to be impeached since the Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950. Earlier, an attempt to impeach Supreme Court Judge V Ramaswami failed in 1993 after all 205 MPs of the ruling Congress Party abstained from voting on the motion.
The move comes at a time when allegations of corruption against judges are on the rise .
Bhardwaj said: “Since the CJI made the recommendation, the government would follow the procedure for removal by informing the presiding officers of both Houses to initiate steps in this direction.”
A defiant Sen denied the allegations. “I was cleared by a division bench of the High Court of all wrongdoings. I am hearing from the media that I am going to be impeached, nobody has informed me. I am not going to resign and would not say anything further,” Sen told HT on phone from Kolkata.
However, the CJI’s letter to the PM made it clear that Justice Sen was twice given the opportunity earlier this year to either resign or seek voluntary retirement, which he refused.
Bhardwaj said: “The government would itself bring a motion in parliament,” as soon as the inquiry report of the committee to be set-up by the parliament would be received. The Law Minister refused to give a timeline for the completion of the entire removal process.
The CJI’s recommendation is based on the findings of a three-judge committee, which held Justice Sen guilty of misappropriating over Rs 50 lakh in his capacity as a court-appointed receiver in 1993, in a dispute between Steel Authority of India Limited and Shipping Corporation of India. Then a lawyer, Sen was elevated as a Judge of the Calcutta High Court in December 2003.
Justice Sen deposited an amount of Rs 57.65 lakh with the high court after a single judge ordered him to pay back the money he had kept with for 13 years without any authority of law.
“In view of the findings of the committee, it is requested that proceedings for removal of Justice Soumitra Sen be initiated in accordance with the procedure prescribed in the Constitution,” The CJI said in his August 4, 2008 letter to the Prime Minister.
In the history of independent India, only one judge - Shiva Prasad Sinha of Allahabad High Court was removed from his post in 1949, i.e. before the Constitution came into force.