Judicial integrity: History shows judges resign rather than face impeachment

On Monday, the Supreme Court refused an urgent hearing on a plea of former Calcutta High Court judge CS Karnan seeking bail and recall of the order convicting him for contempt.

File image of CS Karnan. Bar and Bench

File image of CS Karnan. Bar and Bench

Justice Karnan has the dubious distinction of being the first sitting high court judge to be awarded a jail term by the apex court and also the first to have retired as a fugitive.

While some have argued that the Supreme Court might have opened Pandora's box by sending Karnan to prison for contempt of court and that impeachment was the right way to go, history shows that no Indian judge has ever been impeached.  Most simply resign quietly.

Here's a look at some previous cases:

V Ramaswami

In 1991, history was made after V Ramaswami became the first Indian judge against whom impeachment proceedings were initiated.

The Supreme Court Bar Association called for Ramaswami's impeachment and asked the Chief Justice of India to not assign him any judicial work. The impeachment failed after the motion did not pass the Lok Sabha in 1993 following the Congress pulling their support. Ramaswami retired the next year.

Soumitra Sen

In 2011, Soumitra Sen, another Calcutta High Court judge sent a letter tendering his resignation to President Pratibha Patil and the Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar just days before the Lok Sabha was preparing to take up an impeachment motion that had been passed by a large majority in the Upper House on August 18.

Sen was found guilty of misappropriating lakhs of rupees when he was a lawyer in the 1980s and had been appointed received by the Calcutta High Court and of misrepresenting facts.

In his letter to the president, Sen said that since the Rajya Sabha has decided, in its wisdom, that he should not continue as a judge, he was resigning and wanted to live as a common citizen.

PD Dinakaran

In January 2010, an impeachment motion was moved against Karnataka High Court Chief Justice PD Dinakaran by Opposition parties.

Allegations listed in the impeachment motion included possessing wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income, unlawfully securing five housing board plots in the name of his wife and two daughters, entering into benami transactions and possessing land beyond the agricultural ceiling limit.

Dinakaran was then transferred to Sikkim, where he took charge as Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court. Dinakaran eventually stepped down from his post in July 2011, before impeachment proceedings could be initiated against him.

Dinakaran said he had lost faith in the fairness of the procedures adopted by an inquiry panel set up by the Rajya Sabha chairman and headed by Supreme Court Justice Aftab Alam.

JB Pardiwala

In 2015, more than 50 Rajya Sabha members petitioned Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Mohammad Hamid Ansari to begin impeachment proceedings against Justice JB Pardiwala of the Gujarat High Court for his “unconstitutional” remarks against reservations in a case connected with Patidar leader Hardik Patel.

The furore quickly died down after Pardiwala deleted the remarks from his judgment saying those were not “relevant and necessary” while deciding the petition.

Updated Date: Jul 04, 2017 14:24 PM

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