I had written earlier on the inquiry proceedings against Justice Dinakaran, posts available here, here and here. Another recent saga of impeachment proceedings concerned those against Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court. The charges against him concern the misappropriation of funds entrusted to him in his capacity as the Official Receiver for a corporation, while he was still an advocate. The irregularities emerged after he had taken office as a High Court judge, and the inquiry under the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968 found him guilty.
Subsequently, the impeachment proceeding was commenced and the motion was raised, discussed and passed in the Rajya Sabha a couple of weeks ago, in what has been hailed as a proceeding most befitting the world’s largest democracy. Members like Sitaram Yechury and Arun Jaitley argued both with erudition and vehemence to end any hope for Justice Sen’s impassioned plea to survive. Justice Sen’s impeachment was to conclude this Monday, with the Lok Sabha scheduled to hear him on the same day. Recently, Sen sought an extension from the Lok Sabha, stating that his son has fallen ill, a request the Lok Sabha turned down. After his Rajya Sabha debacle, Sen had made statements of apparent defiance, saying that:
“I will defend myself in the Lok Sabha, but if the motion is adopted there also, I will move the Supreme Court,” and, “there is no question of resigning because I have not committed any wrong…”
However, the latest news is that Justice Sen has now tendered his resignation. Personally, it was most gratifying to see that the long arm of the law at least seemed to have caught up with Justices Sen and Dinakaran, with both having to tender their resignations at the last moment, evidently to save face and avoid the ignominy of going down in the annals of history as the first judge of India to ever be impeached.
While it is good to see rule of law having some effect on even some of the country’s top judicial officers, what is sad is that neither of them were ever impeached. While most in the higher echelons of the law ministry and the AG’s office admit there is no precedent on such a conundrum, my personal view is that the impeachment/inquiry proceedings once commenced must be taken to their logical conclusion, and not allowed to be stopped by resignations of the concerned person. I feel that the impeachment proceeding must be concluded and if the judge has already resigned, his resignation must be withheld by the President pending conclusive determination of the impeachment proceedings. If found guilty, the Judge must be dismissed from office, with no pension and other benefits, and his resignation should stand void. Else, the entire process is simply made a mockery of, by the eleventh hour resignation of the evidently guilty individual.
For, the question quis cutodiet ipso custodes is one direly in need of an answer by actions, not words.