Kolkata judge yet to receive note on his removal

September 11th, 2008 - 7:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghKolkata, Sep 11 (IANS) Justice Soumitra Sen, against whom India’s chief justice has recommended impeachment, is still awaiting intimation from parliament of charges of alleged “criminal misappropriation” of over Rs.5.8 million from the Calcutta High Court, his counsel said Thursday.Sen’s counsel Subhas Bhattacharjee claimed that they had not received a copy of the complaint by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, recommending the judge’s removal for allegedly keeping the court’s money in his personal account.

“We are now waiting for a missive from parliament on the charges. Parliament might form a committee and will give the final recommendation, depending upon a discussion and approval of two-thirds majority in the house,” Bhattacharjee told IANS here.

“We haven’t received the copy of the complaint filed by Chief Justice Balakrishnan, recommending the removal of Justice Sen. We don’t even know the matter of the complaint. Whatever we have come to know, it’s from the media, which is strange.”

Chief Justice Balakrishnan wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about Justice Sen Aug 4 saying, “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.”

A motion for removal of a judge of higher judiciary has to be moved in parliament along with endorsement by at least 100 members of the Lok Sabha or 50 members of the Rajya Sabha.

After the government moves the motion, in the Rajya Sabha or the Lok Sabha, the presiding officer of the house would get the allegations against Justice Sen examined by its own panel and if found true, both houses will have to pass the motion after a debate.

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 on March 26 he declined to do so.

He faced 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.

“Nothing’s clear to us as to on what grounds my client has been found guilty. It will be very difficult for us to proceed with the case for hearing,” the defence counsel said.

Adjudicating a lawsuit between two state firms, Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) and Shipping Corporation of India Limited (SCIL), 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 on being found to be 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 remuneration. But Sen is alleged to have kept the money in his personal account.

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 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.”

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.

He was found guilty of misappropriating Rs.5.8 million of the high court’s funds on two occasions - first in 1984 and then again in 1997, while acting as special officer appointed by the high court to take charge of the suit properties and to keep them in his safe custody.

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