Despite being tantalisingly close to completion, a new chapter in India's judicial history was abandoned half-written with the Lok Sabha on Monday dropping impeachment proceedings against Calcutta High Court Judge Soumitra Sen. The Rajya Sabha had voted on August 18 to oust the judge but his smartly timed resignation — submitted to the President on Saturday, two days before the Lower House's scheduled debate and vote on the matter — effectively meant there was no one left for Parliament to impeach.
Since an earlier faxed resignation sent by Mr. Sen was deemed invalid, the Law Ministry on Sunday notified the handwritten resignation of the judge — an unusual procedure for persons holding constitutional posts — so as to end all speculation on his continuing judicial status.
After Law and Justice Minister Salman Khursheed informed the Lok Sabha of Justice Sen's resignation, which was accepted by President Pratibha Patil on Saturday, Speaker Meira Kumar sought the “sense of the House” to drop the proceedings against the judge. The members gave their consent by voice vote.
“Is it the sense of the House that we may not proceed with agenda item no. 12 [of Monday's business],” the Speaker asked the members.
As per the agenda, the House had wanted to address to the President, through a motion, for the removal of the judge for — misappropriation of large sums of money, which he received in his capacity as Receiver appointed by the Calcutta High Court; and misrepresenting facts with regard to the misappropriation of money before the High Court.
Earlier in the day, Leader of the Lok Sabha and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had hectic consultations with Mr. Khursheed, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and senior officials on the issue. The Speaker too had similar meetings with the government and the political parties.
Last month, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury moved the motion of impeachment in the Rajya Sabha against Justice Sen for misappropriating Rs. 33.23 lakh in a 1983 case when he was appointed Receiver by the High Court. When put to vote, 189 members supported the motion and 16 opposed it, after the judge, who was standing in the bar placed in the Upper House, mounted a strong defence.
Had he not resigned, the Lok Sabha would likely have delivered a similar verdict and Soumitra Sen would have become the first judge impeached by Parliament in India.