The government has put in cold freeze the move to sack Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Sen on charges of corruption.
Three months after Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan recommended the removal of Justice Sen to the government, the Law Ministry is yet to decide whether to proceed in the controversial matter.
“The report by the committee of judges on which the Supreme Court collegium based its recommendation for impeachment does not help us, since the misconduct mentioned dates back to his days as a lawyer 15 years ago and not as a judge,” said a senior Law Ministry official.
“Such a sensitive matter cannot be decided in haste and it remains to be seen whether a solid case can be made out against Justice Sen,” the official said.
The government, conscious of the fact that no judge has been impeached in India so far, does not want to burn its fingers as its term draws to an end.
To remove a judge by impeachment, a motion signed by 100 Lok Sabha MPs or 50 Rajya Sabha MPs, has to be presented to the presiding officer of the House in which the motion is intended to be brought.
The motion is then examined by a committee of jurists set up by the presiding officer — Lok Sabha Speaker or the Rajya Sabha Chairperson, depending on the House where the motion is brought.
The government is worried whether the charges levelled against Justice Sen would stand the scrutiny of the committee of jurists which would examine it again. “A case of misconduct against any judge has to be proved beyond doubt. How was Justice Sen cleared for appointment as a judge in 2003 when already there were allegations of misappropriation of public money against him in the public domain ?” remarked a ministry official.
Asked for his comments on the issue, Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj said: “The government had readily accepted the recommendation sent by the CJI. We are now in the process of carefully studying the matter before taking any decision.” He
refused to answer whether the government would proceed or not.
The CJI had sought Justice Sen’s removal after a three-judge committee found him guilty of misappropriation of Rs 50 lakh public money.
Sen, in his capacity as a court appointed-receiver in 1993, in a dispute between Steel Authority of India Limited and Shipping Corporation of India had transferred the amount in his account, which he was supposed to hand over to the court.
Sen has denied the charges and maintained that a division-bench of the Calcutta High Court had cleared him of the charges.