Calcutta/New Delhi, Nov. 15: Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Sen, who was asked to go on leave following a case of financial misconduct, rejoined yesterday.
Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar didnt give him permission to hear cases but asked Sen to look after administrative affairs of the court. He has also been provided a chamber.
The move came two months after law minister H.R. Bhardwaj said the Chief Justice of India (CJI) had recommended impeachment proceedings against Sen, who is accused of depositing Rs 32 lakh he had got as court receiver in his personal account.
A three-judge committee of the Supreme Court had found Sen guilty of financial misconduct but the judge had refused to resign or take voluntary retirement.
Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta, who is also secretary in the justice department, would neither confirm nor deny whether Sen had rejoined. At this point of time, I cannot say anything, Gupta said.
The case dates back to 1993 when Sen, a Calcutta High Court advocate at that time, was asked to act as court receiver in a legal dispute. Sen put the money Rs 32 lakh in his personal bank account and retained it despite being made a high court judge in 2003.
After the case was settled in 2005, the court ordered Sen to return Rs 57 lakh, the amount the initial deposit would have grown over the years. But Sen, who had invested the amount in chit funds, could not, as he did not have the money at that time. The high court then asked Sen to go on leave.
His mother later returned the money.
On August 4, the CJI wrote to the Prime Minister recommending Sens impeachment.
Under the Constitution, an impeachment motion can be introduced in Parliament either by 100 Lok Sabha MPs or 50 Rajya Sabha MPs. It is then referred to the Speaker or the chairman, who sets up a three-member inquiry committee before which the judge can defend himself.
If the committee recommends his removal, it has to be vetted by a double majority in the House in which the motion was introduced majority of the total membership and two-thirds majority of members present and voting.
The same process would then have to be done in the other House. If the motion is passed, the judge stands removed.
The law ministry, however, feels that impeachment proceedings cannot be initiated against Sen as the impropriety related to his conduct as a lawyer before he was elevated as a high court judge. The Prime Minister usually acts on the issue according to the advice of the law ministry.
But in such cases the CJI, said lawyer Prashant Bhushan, could withdraw judicial work from the judge. The judge concerned may, however, be allotted non-judicial work to utilise his services, the lawyer added.
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