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High court judge opposes misconduct probe against him

New Delhi, July 19 (Calcutta Tube) Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court Monday said that neither parliament nor any committee appointed by it has the jurisdiction to go into allegations of his misconduct, on which he has already been pronounced innocent.

He told the committee, set up by the Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari to go into the allegations of misconduct when he was a lawyer and appointed as a receiver by a court, that under the provisions of the constitution, parliament is barred from looking into the records of high courts.

The committee, headed by Justice B. Sudershan Reddy of the Supreme Court and comprising Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court Mukul Mudgal and eminent jurist Fali Nariman, was set up after the Rajya Sabha was moved for initiating impeachment proceedings against Justice Sen.

Reacting to the arguments of Justice Sen’s counsel, Justice Reddy asked if he was expecting them to go back and tell parliament that it had no jurisdiction.

Justice Sen is facing impeachment proceedings allegedly for misappropriating Rs.3,322,800 that was kept in his custody by the court when he was a practising lawyer.

Justice Sen was appointed a judge of the Calcutta High Court Dec 3, 2003. In 2006, he deposited Rs.5,765,204 — the amount received by him as receiver along with interest.

A single judge who looked into the matter concluded that Justice Sen appropriated the money without the court’s authority and, therefore, was liable for criminal misappropriation.

However, a division bench of the high court set aside the findings of the single judge and pronounced him innocent.

Senior counsel Shekhar Naphade who appeared for Justice Sen before Justice Reddy’s committee said: ‘A receiver is answerable to the court that had appointed him as such and none else, and the records of the high court could not be looked into.’

Naphade said that if the charges of ‘misbehaviour’ against Justice Sen had to be looked into then ‘the standard of proof should be as high as in a criminal case and should be beyond the shadow of any doubt’.

He said that Justice Sen had the right to silence and as in a criminal trial it is for the prosecution to establish their case.

When Naphade objected to the committee repeatedly confronting his client with issues related to moral grounds, Nariman asked: ‘Is a judge saying that?’

To this senior counsel said: ‘I may say something different outside the committee room but in a judicial proceeding, moral grounds are irrelevant.’

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