Soumitra Sen denies charges
Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court has replied to a chargesheet served to him by an inquiry committee set up by the Rajya Sabha Chairman following an impeachment motion against him by 58 Opposition MPs.
Justice Sen had been charged on two counts — misappropriation of Rs 33 lakh in his capacity as a court-appointed receiver in 1984, when he was a lawyer, and misrepresenting a division bench of the high court to justify his conduct.
In his 95-page reply to the committee, Justice Sen said he had not used the court’s 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.
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.
On the charge of misrepresenting a division bench, Justice Sen said he had filed a written reply to a single judge and it was considered by a division bench, which ordered deletion of all the indictments.
Challenging the jurisdiction of the committee, Justice Sen said that since the indictment against him had been expunged by a division bench of Calcutta High Court, the same could not be examined by an executive authority like the committee.
He also questioned the authority of Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan for recommending his impeachment to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in August 2008.
The case dates back to February 13, 1984, when Justice Sen started practising law as an advocate. Within six months, he 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 sold the goods and kept Rs 33 lakh in his bank account, but allegedly neither submitted the accounts to the court nor refunded the money even after his appointment as a Calcutta High Court judge in 2003.
Balakrishnan ordered an inquiry in 2007 and restrained him from discharging judicial functions. Justice Sen appealed to a two-judge bench, which ordered deletion of all remarks against him. Subsequently, the impeachment motion prompted Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari to set up the three-member committee for inquiry.