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Impeaching a judge in Parliament

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The Chandigarh Tribune reported the impeachment proceedings of Justice Soumitra Sen carried out in the Rajya Sabha:

In what turned out to be a historic day for the Parliament, the Rajya Sabha today became a virtual courtroom as Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court appeared before the House to defend himself in an impeachment motion moved against him by CPM leader Sitaram Yechury on grounds of financial irregularities.

Sen in the second judge in India’s history after Justice V. Ramaswami of the Supreme Court (May 1993) to face impeachment proceedings for unbecoming conduct. The motion against Ramaswami had, however, fallen through in the Lok Sabha as the ruling Congress abstained from voting.

In his almost two-hour defence, Sen stood at a especially erected bar posted at the gate facing Chairman Hamid Ansari, rejecting all the charges levelled against him and pleading innocent on every count. He said the allegations against him were only in the form of “adverse observations” by a single judge and subsequently by an in-house Committee.

In fact, had Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley not spoken immediately after him, Sen might have walked away with the sympathy of those who had not closely scrutinised the charges against him. Jaitley, himself a lawyer, systematically demolished the arguments placed before the House by Sen, building a strong case against the Calcutta High Court judge.

“In a matter of probity, there is no right of equality. To discredit other judges is not an argument available to any judge,” Jaitley said. He accused Sen of misrepresenting facts and mixing two separate cases to build a case in his favour. “We are living in changed times when judges will have to realise they are no longer living in ivory towers.”

The Tribune does its quietly stunning job of writing complete and well-organized news reports. The articles put to shame those appearing in the major national dailies.

August 18, 2011

Livemint reports the outcome:

The Rajya Sabha voted overwhelmingly in favour of the motion to impeach Calcutta high court judge Soumitra Sen on Thursday, making it the first such motion to succeed in Indian parliamentary history.

Out of 206 lawmakers in the 245-member House, 189 voted in favour of impeaching Sen who had been found guilty of misappropriation of funds and misrepresentation of facts by a judicial inquiry committee appointed by the Rajya Sabha. This was well above the two-thirds majority required to impeach a judge for “proven misbehaviour” as prescribed under Article 124 of the Constitution and the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968. There were 17 votes against the motion.

According to the Press Trust of India, the impeachment vote saw members of all parties, except the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party​ (BSP), hold Sen guilty of misappropriating Rs.33.23 lakh in a 1983 case. Sen had been appointed as a receiver of monies by the Calcutta high court when he was practising as an advocate at the time.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

August 18, 2011 at 2:46 am

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