Sen’s case a reminder, time to take taint out of the judiciary
Soumitra Sen’s crime could be a minor one compared to what some other judges have indulged in. Country must clean up the system.
Corruption in higher judiciary has been worrying the country for sometime. It has been protective about the dignity of the judiciary for far too long, encouraging, without intending to do so, the personnel manning high institution to get afflicted by the malaise which has now resulted in a national outcry in the form of the Anna Hazare movement.
The crime committed by Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court could be a minor one compared to what others of his ilk elsewhere have been accused but it makes a clear case for putting the judiciary under greater scrutiny.
Sen could be the first justice to be impeached if Lok Sabha, too, votes against him — Rajya Sabha voted overwhelmingly for his impeachment today. He was found guilty of misappropriating Rs 33.23 lakh which were under his custody as a court-appointed receiver and misrepresenting facts before a Calcutta court.
If that happens, it would be a blot on the judiciary. But it would be for the better of the institution. The impeachment proceeding is too cumbersome — the only other justice to face the impeachment motion was Justice V Ramaswamy of the Supreme Court — and the institutional machinery to deal with misconduct by a judge is too weak. Sen’s impeachment would hasten the process of judicial reforms which has been slow to take off.
"Let us set a good precedent today, so that judges with similar bent of mind get a message that they cannot get away with such things....Not only should this judge go, other judges who do such things should not remain for even one more day," said senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani, reacting to the voting against Sen in Rajya Sabha.
There are many others who might go Sen’s way if their cases are followed up with due earnest.
Justice Dinakaran, the Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court who resigned recently ahead of the commencement of the removal proceedings against him by a three-member panel, is accused of corruption and judicial misconduct. He has been accused of amassing huge assets and acquisition of land in his hometown Aaakkonam in Tamil Nadu. Despite serious allegations, he was recommended for promotion as Supreme Court judge.
Justice KG Balakrishnan, former Chief Justice of Supreme Court and and the current head of the Human Rights Commission, is accused of amassing wealth disproportionate to his sources of income. His son and son-in-law are believed to be owning huge wealth too and have misused their access to Balakrishnan to fix cases in the apex court. The former CJI has denied the charges against him but the legal community is not convinced.
Justice Nirmal Yadav of the Uttarakhand High Court, the first judge to be chargesheeted while still in office, has been charged with corruption, destruction of evidence, and fabrication of evidence by CBI. She was removed from the Punjab and Haryana High Court after it became clear that a Rs 15 lakh bribe which ended up with another judge was indeed meant for her. A businessman wanted a favourable verdict in a case and had dispatched the money to her.
As many as seven judges of the Allahabad High Court, 12 of subordinate courts and one Supreme Court judge were found involved in the Rs 23-crore Ghaziabad Provident Fund scam.
There are too many black sheep in an institution which has been the last hope for the common man in an environment where all other institutions have failed to stand by him. It needs greater monitoring.
The Centre’s plan to constitute a National Judicial Oversight Committee (NJOC) to look into complaints against Supreme Court and High Court judges is positive. But it must speed up the process.
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The move to opt out of a proper impeachment of Justice Sen is a cop-out. Impeaching him despite his resignation would send out a powerful message to wrongdoers in the judiciary.
The impeachment process, however, could not be concluded as the high court judge resigned five days before the matter was to be taken up in Lok Sabha.
In indicting Soumitra Sen, Jaitley argued "litigants cannot be judged by a judge, who himself is stigmatised." If so which of our MPs is qualified to judge Sen? Vote in our exclusive poll now.