Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Impeachment of High Court Judges- a futile exercise

An overwhelming majority of Rajya Sabha voted in favour of impeaching Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court on August 17. Lok Sabha was to debate the issue in the next few days. Meanwhile he resigned on September 1. His resignation was accepted. Lok Sabha dropped the impeachment proceedings. Justice Sen would get his retirement benefits. Everyone is happy.

The End.

Wholesome mockery! What else does one make of the above?

Certain goods which were rejected by Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) were to be sold and the proceeds to be deposited in the Court. Sen, who was a practicing advocate at that time, was appointed as a Receiver to do this job in 1984-27 years back! By 1995 Sen had received a total of Rs. 33.23 lacs from the sale of goods. Despite repeated requests from SAIL, he did not submit the details of receipts. SAIL filed a suit against him in Calcutta High Court in 2002. He did not provide the accounts even when asked by the Court. The High Court, through a laborious process found out that he had received Rs. 33.23 lacs and had in fact used them by 1999. In other words it found him guilty. It ordered him to return the money along with interest. Sen, who had by that time become a Judge of the Calcutta High Court, paid Rs. 57.65 lacs!

Later Sen’s mother pleaded for deletion of adverse remarks about him in the Calcutta High Court judgment. A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court ordered the deletion of the adverse remarks.  Justice Sen became clean!

Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan was, of course not convinced. He ordered a probe by a 3 judge panel. Justice Sen was found guilty by the panel. Thereafter K G Balakrishnan wrote to Prime Minister asking him to initiate impeachment proceedings.

Rajya Sabha took up the issue in 2009 and appointed a 3 member committee to probe into the matter. Again Justice Sen was guilty.

Thereafter what you read in the opening paragraph happened.

Look at it from Justice Sen’s angle.

  • He utilized Rs. 33.23 lacs from 1995 to 2007- for a cool 12 years.
  • He was found guilty. He returned Rs. 57.65 lacs with interest; it works out to a throw away 5% p.a. interest, if compounded annually! It will be still less if compounded half yearly or quarterly. (Technically if we treat that the misuse of money started from 1999 when the balance in the account was wiped out, it would still be just 7%.)
  • He managed to get the adverse remarks against him deleted by a Division Bench.
  • He resigned in the wake of impeachment proceedings and ensured his retirement benefits! Had the impeachment proceedings been successful, he would have lost the benefits.

Is this not ‘having the cake and eating it too?

And this is not an isolated case.

Justice P D Dinakaran was a judge of Madras High Court from 1996 to 2008 when he was promoted as Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court. In 2009 he was recommended for appointment to Supreme Court. Serious allegations started surfacing- land grabbing of enormous proportion, questionable judgments, etc. His elevation to Supreme Court was put on hold. Rajya Sabha started impeachment proceedings against him in 2010.

Justice K G Balakrishnan, who ordered an enquiry in Soumitra Sen’s case under similar circumstances, and 3 other judges thought it fit to recommend his transfer to Sikkim High Court.

Towards the end of July 2011 when a probe panel appointed by Rajya Sabha was still inquiring into the case, Justice Dinakaran resigned. His resignation was accepted.

No impeachment! Full retirement benefits!( As if this was not enough, Justice Dinakaran alleged that he was victimized because he was a Dalit!)

Before Justice Dinakaran it was Justice Ramaswamy.

You observe the same nauseating pattern.

Then there is a long list present and past Judges with questionable integrity as given by Prashant Bhushan.

My point is, why should the resignation of a Judge deter the government from proceeding with the impeachment? Why should it feel shy to act tough? Is land grabbing or misappropriation of money any nobler if done by a Judge?

Finally is impeachment a punitive, disciplinary action or a mere negotiating tool for cajoling an erring Judge to put in his resignation?      


  1. this is ridiculous! and then we speak of anti-corruption movements. india will not be corruption free till each and every one behaves responsibly. mockery of justice indeed.


  2. Good point. I was a bit taken aback by the committees after committees created at each level of investigation. The entire exercise is time wasting.

  3. Although Impeachment does send a strong message across the board, it causes a deeper impact of mistrust among the people about the judiciary. So at least the process of impeachment carried out in half in the RS should send a strong message !!

  4. I guess, it's just a way to escape from your wrong doings. This is the mockery of entire judicial system.

  5. The laws in India are really ridiculous at times. There ought to be a counter law which forbids any resignations once impeachment proceedings have begun against a judge.
    The judiciary is supposedly the last hope of the people. If that too is corrupted, then where does the 'aam aadmi' stand?

  6. great post sir! its just another case of the law makers and enforcers being ahead in line as law breakers! of course their insight on the loopholes puts them at advantage as well. seriously, such a farce!

  7. great post sir!

    commit crime, use the benifits, get cleansheet, come out with so called dignity and still get further benifits.. wah... incredible!

  8. Thanks Chintan- It is mockery no doubt.
    Thanks Nona- I agree that we have spent on committee after committee.
    Thanks Maeveric- While RS proceeding would have sent the message, we need more having spent everyone's time/ resources for over 2 decades.
    Thanks SUB.
    Thanks Saru- Good, legally sanctioned escape route.
    Thanks merrymusing- a counter law or alternatively govt can proceed with impeachment irrespective of the resignation.
    Thanks Rohit- their insight on the loopeholes is costing the nation.
    Thanks Sunil-they have made it as simple as you have mentioned.

  9. Ye indeed Sir.. they should implement it in other sections too.. someone commits a fraud, found guilty, resigns and Not guilty.. !

    He he..

  10. There are different laws for the powerful...
    I felt Justice Sen was singled out...mockery indeed.

  11. But I feel and other lawyers feel that Justice Sen saved judiciary from disgrace or else he would have been first judge to be impeached in the history of India.The manner in which impeachment proceeding was held ,the legislators took opportunity to dig at judiciary,because judiciary is playing pro-active through PIL and supervising various investigation[scams],At the same time, I 'm not justifying the wrong done by Js Sen.