Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court has challenged the impeachment (removal) proceedings initiated against him in the Rajya Sabha, saying these were based on the “biased recommendations” of Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan.
In a seven-page letter to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari through his lawyer, Justice Sen has said since CJI Balakrishnan’s views in his case are well known, he should not have been consulted at all in the matter.
<b1>"It is expected that the hon’ble Chief Justice of India should not have had any role in the matter of formation of the committee since he had already expressed his opinion publicly,” Sen stated in his letter.
The impeachment proceedings against Sen were initiated after Ansari admitted a petition signed by 58 MPs in February, who sought his removal on the grounds of misconduct.
The Rajya Sabha chairman had formed a committee of three jurists in March comprising Justice DK Jain of the Supreme Court, Justice TS Thakur the Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court and noted jurist Fali S Nariman.
However, Justice Jain opted out of the committee last month, citing personal reasons. He was replaced by his colleague B Sudershan Reddy after the government consulted the CJI.
The matter had come to light in August last year, when the CJI in a letter to the prime minister had recommended Justice Sen’s impeachment after he was found guilty by a committee of judges of having misappropriated Rs 50 lakh public money as a lawyer in 1993.
Justice Sen has questioned the CJI’s decision to have formed an in-house committee of judges, which probed the allegations against him in 2007. “The in-house committee can only look into the complaint against a judge with regard to his conduct and behaviour as a judge,” Sen said.
He argued that he was a lawyer when the allegations were levelled against him, and therefore, “the in-house committee did not have the jurisdiction to inquire.”
“It is not understood how an advocate or a receiver can be held guilty of judicial misconduct for an alleged action prior to his elevation as a judge,” Justice Sen said.
Moreover, a division bench of the Calcutta High Court had cleared him of all the charges in 2007, Sen wrote in his detailed letter.
The controversial judge has charged the CJI with not having sent his detailed reply which countered the allegations against him, to the prime minister last year.
"It is clear from various newspaper reports that the hon’ble CJI has admitted that my detailed reply to the report of the committee set-up by him was not even mentioned. The MPs were not favoured with my side of the story,” Sen said.
He also questioned Ansari’s decision to admit the motion for impeachment without checking whether all documents were complete. “Neither you had the opportunity to look into all the materials as is required under the law, before admitting the motion,” the letter said.
Justice Sen had last month demanded that Nariman should not be a member of the committee, which is probing allegations against him, since “he has already openly expressed his opinion in favour of impeachment.”
Sen was held guilty of having misappropriated Rs 50 lakh in his capacity as a receiver appointed by the Calcutta High Court in a dispute between Steel Authority of India Limited and Shipping Corporation of India in 1993.
Then a lawyer, Sen deposited the money in his account instead of the court account. He returned the money after the court directed him to do so in 2006.