September 8th, 2008 - 8:25 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS): In only the second case of its kind, Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan has recommended removal of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court for “criminal misappropriation” of over Rs.58 million of the high court’s funds.”I write this to recommend that the proceedings contemplated by Article 217 (1) read with Article 124 (4) of the constitution be initiated for removal of Justice Soumitra Sen, judge, Calcutta High Court,” Chief Justice Balakrishnan wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Aug 4.
The recommendation was made after Justice Sen ignored an advice by the apex court’s collegium, headed by the chief justice and including two senior most judges, Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice Ashok Bhan, to either resign or retire voluntarily by April 2, 2008.
The apex court collegium had Feb 2 directed Justice Sen to resign after hearing him, but he on March 26 declined to do so.
He faces the charge of misappropriating the high court’s funds when he was practising as a lawyer - years before he became a judge at the same court in December 2003.
As per the chief justice letter to the prime minister, Justice Sen had misappropriated the court funds, accruing to it as suit properties, on two occasions - first in 1984 and then again in 1997, while acting as special officer appointed by the court to take charge of the suit properties and to keep them in his safe custody.
Adjudicating a lawsuit between two state firms, Steel Authority of India Limited and Shipping Corporation of India Limited, the high court had in April 1984 appointed Sen as the court’s receiver to take charge of some goods imported by SAIL through SCIL, but subsequently rejected by it on being found of inferior quality.
The high court had directed him to sell the suit property and keep the sale proceeds with him in a separate bank account in safe custody after deducting five percent of the proceeds as his remunerations.
Justice Sen deposited the entire amount of Rs.33.22 million in two separate banks in Kolkata, but gradually withdrew all the money from them for his personal use.
Later in 1997, acting as a special officer of the high court in a case involving payment of Rs.70 million to the workers of a Kolkata-based ceiling fan manufacturing firm, which had gone bankrupt, Justice Sen had deposited the sum in another bank account.
But even out of this sum, he misappropriated Rs.25 million, which he invested in a private firm, Lynx India Ltd that too later become bankrupt.
Despite these cases of criminal misappropriation of huge funds by him, Justice Sen was appointed judge of the high court.
The misappropriation of the funds was detected in 2006 after SAIL demanded the sale proceeds of the suit property received by him.
But Justice Sen chose to ignore the SAIL demand, following which the state firm moved the high court in 2002.
It was during the adjudication of SAIL’s new lawsuit that the misappropriation was unearthed.
Though Justice Sen never cooperated with the court, he eventually returned Rs.57.85 million to it following its order to return Rs.52.46 million, including the interest on Rs.33.22 million of sale proceeds of the SAIL suit property.
As some sections of the media in Kolkata reported the matter, the then chief justice of the Calcutta High Court withdrew judicial work from Justice Sen and wrote to then chief justice of India Y.K. Sabharwal in November 2006, apprising him of his conduct.
After examining the high court chief justice’s report, Chief Justice Balakrishnan in November 2007 ordered a “deeper probe” into the matter and constituted a three-member panel, comprising Madras High Court Chief Justice A.P. Shah, Madhya Pradesh High Court Chief Justice A.K. Patnaik and Rajasthan High Court Justice R.M. Lodha.
The chief justice recommended Justice Sen’s sacking, after the judicial panel indicted him for criminal misappropriation of court funds and criminal breach of trust.
The panel in its report said: “Justice Sen did not have an honest intention right from the year 1993 since he mixed the money received as a court’s officer with his personal money and converted the court’s fund to his own use.”
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Kolkata HC judge to face impeachment
New Delhi, Mon, 08 Sep 2008 NI Wire
The impeachment process will be initiated against the Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Sen for misconduct. Union Law and Justice Minister Hansraj Bhardwaj confirming the decision said on Monday that government will move a motion in Parliament for impeachment of Sen.
The step was decided to be taken after Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan's recommendation that Justice Sen be removed from service on the ground of 'misconduct'.
About one month ago, the Chief Justice had sought the urgent intervention of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in initiating impeachment process against Justice Sen on the established charges of misconduct.
The Chief Justice recommendation was made shortly after a three-judge inquiry committee had established Sen's misconduct in depositing the money in his personal account. Sen retained the money even after being appointed as the High Court judge in 2003. It was in 2006 after HC order, he returned money.
Justice Sen has been bearing the allegation for appropriating Rs 32 lakh as a court-appointed receiver in 1993 in a lawsuit between Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and Shipping Corporation of India over supply of fire bricks.
This is the second time in the annals of higher judiciary of India when the Chief Justice has recommended for the dismissal of a High Court judge.
The first impeachment process was taken against Supreme Court sitting judge, Justice V Ramaswami in 1991. He was accused of misconduct for 'furniture purchase' when he was the Chief Justice of Haryana High Court. He, however, could not be impeached as the motion for his impeachment was defeated considerably in the Parliament owing to Oppositions that remained abstained from the vote.
Constitution on HC/SC judges' impeachment
Under the Constitution of India, a High Court or Supreme Court judge could be dismissed only by way of impeachment.
The removal of HC or SC judge is written in Article 124 (4) and (5) and 217 (1) (b) and 218 of the Constitution on the ground of 'proven misbehaviour or incapacity.' However, the Constitution neither defines theses words--“misbehaviour” or “incapacity”--nor clarifies it. These complaints against a judge have to be probed under the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.
After a judge's name is forwarded for impeachment by the CJI—the sole authority retains with the Chief Justice of Supreme Court of India, then it goes to the Parliament for approval through the Law Minister.
To begin the motion in the House, the government needs signature from 100 MPs and after this motion is moved, an enquiry is ordered to probe the allegations against the accused.
After tabling the impeachment motion-proven by an inquiry committee-in the Parliament, it needs to be passed by 2/3rd majority in each of the House.