Creating history, Rajya Sabha today overwhelmingly approved impeachment motion against Calcutta High Court Judge Justice Soumitra Sen, who could become the country's first judge to be removed for misconduct.
After a seven-hour impeachment process marked by a brainstorming debate, 189 members of the 206 present in the 245-member House voted in favour, recording well over 2/3rd majority required for such a move.
The impeachment, first time in the Rajya Sabha and second in Parliament's history, saw members of all parties, except BSP, holding Sen guilty of misappropriating Rs 33.23 lakh in a 1983 case.
As per the charges, the amount was under his custody as a court-appointed receiver in the capacity as a lawyer and he had diverted these and misrepresented facts later.
Sen yesterday appeared before the House and argued that he was a "victim" and appealed to members to vote by conscience. The House, however, rejected his defence, coming at a time when the issue of corruption is hogging the headlines.
Replying to the debate, which started yesterday after he moved the motions, Yechury said Sen had given "false and misleading" statements to the House despite presence of authenticated documents. He held him guilty of "omission and commission".
Impeachment proceedings followed motions moved by Sitaram Yechury
(CPI-M) and Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley after an Inquiry
Committee, appointed by the Rajya Sabha Chairman and headed by Supreme
Court Judge B Sudershan Reddy, held Sen guilty of misbehaviour.
With Rajya Sabha giving its nod for Sen's removal, the impeachment motions will now be taken up by the Lok Sabha, expectedly on August 24-25.
As per the Constitution, a sitting judge of High Court or Supreme Court can be removed only by impeachment by both Houses of Parliament with majority present and two-third of them voting in favour.
While putting motions to vote, Chairman Hamid Ansari said this required a special majority.
The case in which Sen was held guilty dates back to 1983 relating to a dispute between SAIL and Shipping Corporation.
Sen was appointed receiver by the Calcutta High Court when he was a lawyer. The charges included that he diverted some money from the receiver's account to his personal investment in a private company, which went bust.
Even after his elevation as a Judge in 2003, he did not disclose the full details to the court.
Although in his defence, he said that the money was paid back to the workers, the Judges Inquiry Committees as also several members in the Rajya Sabha, including noted lawyers, said it does not exonerate him of his guilt.
Among those who participated in the debate were Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley, E M Sudarsana Natchiappan (Cong), Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP), N K Singh (JD-U), D Raja (CPI) and noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani.
Other well-known lawyers, included Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Y P
Trivedi (NCP), Kishore Mohanty (BJD), Paul Manoj Pandian (AIADMK),
Kumar Deepak Das (AGP) and Rajniti Prasad (RJD).
Replying to the debate, which started yesterday, Yechury said Sen had given "false and misleading" statements to the House despite presence of authenticated documents.
He said the motions do not reflect on the integrity of the entire judiciary but they only strengthen the judiciary, which is "besmirched" by misconduct of one judge.
Yechury rejected Sen's contention that he had no money for himself and said even diversion of funds amounted to misappropriation under Section 403 of Indian Penal Code.
He alleged that Sen was guilty of "omission and commission".
Yechury noted that the motion reflected the "general mood" in the country against corruption and in the midst of all, Parliament has risen to the occasion to establish its supremacy that it can resolve such issues.
He also appreciated the "rich debate" that had taken place on the issue, during which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was mostly present.
Opposing the motions, Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP) said the charges against Sen have not been "proven" and there has been "no misappropriation" of funds by him and hence he should not be removed.
Continuing his speech which remained inconclusive yesterday, Jaitley said Sen had "misled" the House about his case by hiding the "truth".
Inquiries by committees set up by Chief Justice of India and the Rajya Chairman have brought to light the fact that there were series of withdrawals from bank accounts through cheques and cash by Sen both as a lawyer and as a judge, the BJP leader said.
It was a "fit case" for removal of the judge and that the House should recommend so to the President, he said.
At the same time, he expressed concern over questions being raised over conduct of some judges and stressed the need for revisiting the process of appointment of judges and suggested setting up of a National Judicial Commission for the purpose.
Taking part in the debate, E M Sudarsana Natchiappan (Cong) supported the motions, saying he "felt sorry" the way in which the serving judge was attacking the Judiciary as such words were never even used in the Parliament.
The motions were supported by JD(U)'s N K Singh, who said Sen had "sought to make a false hiatus" in the House to garner support.
He said time has come to expedite the judicial reforms process and stressed the need for setting up of a judicial commission.
Favouring Sen's impeachment, Y P Trivedi (NCP) said he did not support Sen's assertion that other judges facing charges against them have escaped punishment.
Kishore Mohanty (BJD) said there was a doubt with Sen's intention and he should not have been elevated as a judge in the first place.
Eloquence Shown by Sen is Property of Charlatans: Jethamalani
Noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani (BJP) attacked Sen and asked members not to be misled by his eloquence which he said had nothing to do with morals. Sen should go, he said.
"This man did not deserve to be a judge. Not only should this judge go, other judges who do such things should not remain for even one more day," he said.
Calling upon members for supporting the motions, Jethamalani said, "Let us set a good precedent today so that judges with similar bent of mind get a message that they cannot get away with such things."
"Eloquence has nothing to do with morals. It is often the property of the biggest thieves and charlatans. Today glib- talkers are on top of the world and people who cannot talk are nowhere," he said, much to the amusement of members.
On Sen's charges against former CJI K G Balakrishnan, Jethmalani said, "He (Sen) is an ungrateful man, who eats and gobbles up the hand that feeds him."
He said, "The former CJI may be controversial, but this CJI actually helped Sen."
Jethmalani, a former law minister, said he could demolish the defence of Sen in three questions. While Sen put up a strong defence yesterday, he was not asked any questions.
He said as long as a person is not cross-examined, he can be eloquent.
Sen 'Extremely Disappointed' at RS Vote, Not to Resign
Calcutta High Court judge Justice Soumitra Sen today said he was "extremely disappointed" at Rajya Sabha's resounding vote to impeach him and ruled out his resignation.
"I am extremely disappointed," Sen said on his return from Delhi when asked for his reaction about the Rajya Sabha nod for his impeachment.
Sen, who himself presented his case against the impeachment motion in the Rajya Sabha yesterday, said he has not resigned and that he will fight his case to the hilt.
"I haven't resigned. I have always maintained that it's a battle for me and if it's a battle it is better to take a bullet on your chest rather than your back and I'll fight to the hilt," Sen said.
Sen said he had a strong caase and there was absolutely no question of misappropriation involving him.
The judge also said that what has happened to him was actually a "violation" of human rights.
Sen's counsel Subhas Bhattacharya said, "If allowed my client will defend himself in the Lok Sabha."
"My client considers himself not guilty of the charges brought against him and as such would like to present his case in the lower house where the motion will have to be passed," Bhattacharya said.
PM Greets Yechury, Jaitley on Success of Impeachment Motion
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today walked up to Opposition leaders Sitaram Yechury and Arun Jaitley and congratulated them on the approval of the motion in the Rajya Sabha to impeach Justice Soumitra Sen.
Singh first shook hands with Yechury who had moved the impeachment motion against Sen.
After a brief exchange of words, the Prime Minister walked up to the Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley to greet him on the success of the impeachment motion.
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