As Opposition mulls CJI impeachment, look at judges who faced proceedings

Justice Ramaswami found himself in the eye of a storm in 1990 following media reports that he had made conspicuously lavish expenditure on his official residence during his tenure in Chandigarh.

Written by Pradeep Kaushal | New Delhi | Updated: January 24, 2018 3:59:50 am
Supreme court, dipak miksra, CJI dipak misra, Chief justice of India, SC judges, SC judges meet, CJI Dipak Misra. Express Photo By-Ganesh Shirsekar

Justice V Ramaswami of the Supreme Court of India was the first judge against whom proceedings for removal were initiated in Parliament. Justice Ramaswami, initially a judge of Madras High Court, was posted as Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 1987. He was elevated to the Supreme Court in October 1989.

Justice Ramaswami found himself in the eye of a storm in 1990 following media reports that he had made conspicuously lavish expenditure on his official residence during his tenure in Chandigarh. The BJP and Left parties came out with notice of a motion in Lok Sabha seeking Justice Ramaswami’s removal from office. Speaker Rabi Ray accepted the motion in March 1991 and set up a committee comprising Justice P B Sawant of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice of Mumbai High Court P D Desai and Justice O Chinnappa Reddy, a retired judge of Supreme Court, to conduct an inquiry into the allegations. After the committee found substance in the allegations, the motion was taken up for a discussion in the Lower House on May 10, 1993.

Justice Ramaswami was defended by Kapil Sibal as a lawyer. Of 401 members present in the House, only 196 voted in favour of the motion. Nobody voted against it, even as 205 MPs belonging to the Congress and some other parties abstained. Since the motion had to be backed by not less than two-thirds of the total members present and voting by an absolute majority, it fell through.

Justice Sen quit before Lok Sabha took up the motion

Justice Soumitra Sen of Kolkata High Court was faced with the removal process in Rajya Sabha on August 17, 2011. He was accused of appropriating Rs 32 lakh (in his capacity as a lawyer) when he was a court-appointed receiver in 1993 in a lawsuit between the Steel Authority of India Limited and the Shipping Corporation of India. A three-judge inquiry committee, set up in 2007, held the charges against Justice Sen. The CJI subsequently recommended his impeachment to the Prime Minister.

In 2009, 58 Rajya Sabha MPs moved a motion for his impeachment. House Chairman Hamid Ansari set up a committee in February 2009 consisting of Justice B Sudershan Reddy of SC, Punjab and Haryana HC Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal and jurist Fali S Nariman. The panel upheld the charge. A motion for his removal was discussed and passed by Rajya Sabha —- 189 to 17 —- on August 18, 2011. The Lok Sabha was scheduled to discuss the motion on September 5 and 6, 2011. However, Justice Sen put in his papers on September 1. The Lok Sabha consequently dropped the proceedings against him.

Justice Paul Daniel Dinakaran Premkumar, a Karnataka HC judge, landed in controversy in August 2009 when the Supreme Court collegium recommended his name for elevation to the apex court. It met with objection from several eminent people from the legal profession. They alleged that Justice Premkumar had indulged in corruption.
The government returned the recommendation to the collegium in December 2009 and he was shifted as the Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Ansari admitted a motion for the removal of Justice Premkumar following a petition by 76 MPs. He constituted a panel in January 2010 consisting of Justice Aftab Alam of the apex court, Karnataka High Court Chief Justice J S Khehar and senior advocate P P Rao to examine the allegations. He resigned on July 29, 2011, but registered his lack of confidence in the committee.  The Rajya Sabha proceedings became infructuous after his resignation.

Justice S K Gangele of Madhya Pradesh High Court was the last to be faced with removal proceedings. However, a committee, set up by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari to look into charges of sexual harassment of a woman additional district judge posed in Gwalior, acquitted him last year. The committee had been set up by Ansari in April 2015 after admitting a motion supported by 58 members. The complainant, who headed the Vishaka committee against sexual harassment, had put in her papers in 2014, maintaining that she had to resign to protect her “dignity, womanhood and self-esteem”.

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