‘Decide impeachment in accordance with conscience’ (Second Lead)

August 17th, 2011 - 11:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) In its first such case, the Rajya Sabha Wednesday began impeachment proceedings against Calcutta High Court Judge Soumitra Sen, who put up an impassioned defence to deny charges of misappropriation of funds and called upon the MPs to decide the motion “in accordance with conscience and on merit”.

The motion was moved was Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury after Chairman Hamid Ansari explained the impeachment procedure to the members.

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

The motion sought removal of office of Justice Sen for misappropriation of large sums of money, which he received in his capacity as receiver appointed by the High Court of Calcutta, and misrepresentation of fact.

Sen, who spoke after Yechury moved the motion, said he was defending his very existence.
“I am defending my life, very existence. Please decide in accordance with your conscience, applying your mind and on merit,” Justice Sen told the members.

Yechury said the motion was against an individual judge and not against the institution of the judiciary itself, which has been assigned a central position in the Indian constitution and is held in high esteem.

“A high judicial office is an office of trust. This motion has been moved to strengthen judiciary,” he said.

Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party who spoke after Justice Sen had put forward his defence, said the judge had been held guilty, both by the in-house committee appointed by the Chief Justice of India and by the committee appointed by the Rajya Sabha Chairman.

Justice Sen, who spoke from a rostrum placed at the gate of central aisle of the upper house facing the chairman, said allegations of misappropriation of funds were of a period when he was a receiver and not a judge.

“My conduct as a judge was never in question,” he said.

Agreeing that people in high places should be absolutely clean, Justice Sen said he was being made “a sacrificial lamb”.

“The real issues have been brushed under the carpet,” he said and pointed to the provident fund scam in a Uttar Pradesh court and money placed outside the house of a judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court.

“Where is the question of misappropriation. Evidence has been bypassed. If this is held, grave injustice will be done,” Justice Sen said.

Admitting that there could be mishandling of money and error of judgement on his part, he said he had never misappropriated funds.

Sen said that there was a presumption of guilt against him by the then chief justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, when he ordered an inquiry by a committee of judges.

Sen mentioned the name of Balakrishnan several times as one who was biased against him at every stage of the inquiry.

“I am not fighting for my position alone,” he said and pointed to a meeting at the residence of Justice Balakrishnan in which two other judges were also present.

Justice Sen said he was asked to resign and offered VRS (voluntary retirement scheme).
Justice Sen also said he was told that he could get a plump position in a public sector undertaking if he resigned but if he did not there would be inquiry by Central Bureau of Investigation which could involve use of third degree methods.

“This is anarchy, complete misuse of power. Kindly do not permit this. On the contrary some people in high places do abuse power,” he said during the course of his address that went beyond the stipulated 90 minutes with permission of the chair.

Describing some of procedures he had to go through as unfair, he said there has to be fairness in every trial. “Where shall I get justice. I am confident I will get it here,” he said.

He added that he has been cleared of the charges by a division bench of the high court.
At one stage he said subjudice matters cannot be discussed in the house.

The house is expected to continue the debate on the motion Thursday.

If the motion is passed by two-thirds of the members present and voting, it will go to the Lok Sabha within a week. If it is approved by both the houses of parliament in the same session, the motion would go to the president, who can order the removal of the judge from office.

The three-member committee constituted by Ansari found charges of financial irregularities against Sen to be correct. He is accused of misappropriating around Rs.24 lakh in the 1990s when he was a lawyer and appointed receiver by the high court.

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