Rejects contention that the panel could not probe charges

A Parliamentary Inquiry Committee has held Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court guilty of ‘misconduct' tantamount to ‘misbehaviour,' warranting his removal as a judge.

The report, tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, said the two charges — misappropriation of Rs.33,22,800 which Justice Sen had received in his capacity as Receiver appointed by the High Court and misrepresentation of the facts with regard to the misappropriation to the High Court — stood proved.

The Committee — headed by Justice B. Sudershan Reddy of the Supreme Court — rejected as untenable Justice Sen's contention that as the probe pertained to his conduct as Receiver and not as judge, the Committee could not go into it. The Committee included Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal and eminent jurist Fali Nariman.

The report said that Justice Sen did not submit any account, either when he was an advocate or after he became a judge, thus violating the order appointing him a Receiver.

This “is a clear instance of ‘misconduct' tantamount to ‘misbehaviour,' especially since Justice Soumitra Sen used his position as a Judge of the High Court by filing an affidavit of his mother [as his own constituted attorney] making the [mis]statement that he had invested the entire sum of Rs.33,22,800 with Lynx India Ltd., which is proven to be a false statement.”

The report said: “The very vastness of the powers vested in the higher judiciary and the extraordinary immunity granted to Judges of the High Courts (and of the Supreme Court) require that Judges… should be fearless and independent, and that they … should adopt a high standard of rectitude so as to inspire confidence in members of the public who seek redress before them.” “While it is necessary to protect the Judges from motivated and malicious attacks, it is also necessary to protect the fair image of the institution of the Judiciary from such of those Judges who choose to conduct themselves in a manner that would tarnish this image. The word ‘misbehaviour' after all is the antithesis of ‘good behaviour'; it is a breach of the condition subsequent upon which the guarantee of a fixed judicial tenure rests,” the report said.

The Committee said: “The investigation has raised, at the threshold, a significant question in relation to inquiries directed to be made into the conduct of a Judge under the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968, viz., whether a Judge whose conduct is under investigation [pursuant to a motion admitted in one of the two Houses of Parliament] has the right to remain silent.” The submission that Justice Sen had the right to remain silent “is untenable and fallacious.”