58 members of Rajya Sabha,cutting across party lines,today petitioned the House Chairman for impeachment of Calcutta High Court Judge Soumitra Sen on grounds of financial misconduct by filing a petition seeking his removal.
The MPs,who include members from BJP,CPI(M),CPI,NCP,RJD,TDP,AIADMK and JD(U),submitted a petition jointly signed by them to Vice President and Chairman of Rajya Sabha Hamid Ansari for Justice Sen’s misapproval on the grounds of misappropriation and misrepresentation of funds,sources said.
The petition,the first step in the process of impeachment,has been based on the recommendation of Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for removal of Justice Sen,they said.
In the internal inquiry held by the CJI,Justice Sen was found to have indulged in a financial misconduct prior to his elevation to the Bench.
He allegedly received Rs.32 lakh as court-appointed receiver in a lawsuit between the Steel Authority of India Ltd and Shipping Corporation of India and deposited the amount in his personal account.
A three-member committee appointed by the CJI held Justice Sen guilty of misconduct in depositing the money in his personal account and preferring to retain the money even after his appointment to the Bench.
Among those who have signed the petition are BJP’s Sushma Swaraj and S S Ahluwalia,CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat,CPI’s D Raja and JD(U) Sharad Yadav.
Under the Rajya Sabha rules,a minimum of 50 MPs should sign a resolution for the removal of a High Court judge under a provision of the Constitution which is similar to the provision that applies to a Supreme Court judge.
The resolution for the removal of Justice Sen has been moved under article 217 (removal of a High Court judge) read with article 124 (removal of Supreme Court judge) of the Constitution.
A resolution,to be carried,should have the support of two-thirds of the majority of the members present and voting in each House of Parliament. After this,the President will pass an order for removal.
The petition filed in the Rajya Sabha would mean that it would survive even even after the Lok Sabha elections.
If taken up,this will be the second such motion to come up in Parliament. The earlier one was the impeachment motion against the then Supreme Court judge V Ramaswami,who was arraigned on grounds of misuse of office as a judge of the Punjab High Court.
But the move was defeated in the Lok Sabha with members of the ruling Congress voting against the motion moved by majority of the members of parties in the Opposition.
In his letter,the Chief Justice has recommended Justice Sen’s removal for misappropriation of Rs 33 lakh deposited in the Calcutta High Court by one of the parties in a case.
Justice Balakrishnan had said that he was seeking removal of Justice Sen as he had rejected the advice to resign or seek voluntary retirement after he had been found guilty of misconduct in an in-house inquiry.
The MPs’ petition would be sent to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat for verification of signatures as per the procedures. After being satisfied that appropriate procedures have been followed,a committee is expected to be formed for further consideration of the motion,the sources said.
The present petition reads: This House resolves to pass the motion for impeachment of Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court on the following two grounds of misconduct: 1) Misappropriation of large sums of money which he received in his capacity as receiver appointed by the Calcutta High Court.
2) Misrepresented facts with relation to misappropriation of money before the Calcutta High Court.
The MPs attached Chief Justice’s letter to the Prime Minister along with their petition.
Under the Constitutional provisions,the removal of a judge can be sought on grounds of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
About a month ago,Law Minister H R Bhardwaj had said there was no need for MPs to initiate the process as the government itself would do so.