Panel probing charges against Justice Sen gets extension

It wrote to Hamid Ansari expressing inability to finalise report

Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari has extended till October 5 the tenure of the Justice B. Sudershan Reddy Committee, which is probing charges of “misappropriation” against Calcutta High Court Judge Soumitra Sen in the removal proceedings initiated by Parliament.

The committee, which has Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice Mukul Mudgal and jurist Fali Nariman as members, has reserved its verdict after the final arguments. Its tenure ended on Thursday.

The charge against Justice Sen was that when he was a lawyer, he collected Rs.33,22,800 from the purchaser of goods and kept it in a savings bank account and misrepresented facts to the High Court.

The case is the second in the history of the country in which Parliament has initiated proceedings for removal of a judge (the first one involved Justice V. Ramaswami). Though the charges did not pertain to Justice Sen's judicial conduct, the question before the committee was whether such a person, who could not continue even as a lawyer as argued by counsel for the panel, was entitled to hold the high office of judge.

Informed sources said the committee wrote to Mr. Ansari, expressing its inability to finalise the report and sought extension by two months.

Throughout the removal proceedings, Justice Sen did not present himself before the committee and only his lawyer argued the case. When the committee wanted to know the reasons for Justice Sen not presenting himself before the committee, counsel claimed “right of silence” as valid defence. It was argued that there was no obligation under the law for Justice Sen to come to the witness box and give evidence, when the probe pertained to his conduct as a court receiver, and not as a judge.

Counsel for the committee, however, maintained that even if Justice Sen had repaid the money retained by him as court receiver, it amounted to misappropriation and judicial misconduct.

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