(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
August 28, 2011
YECHURY MOVES TWO MOTIONS IN RAJYA SABHA
‘Removal of Justice Soumitra Sen
Is for Strengthening of Judiciary’
Below are excerpts of the speech made by Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) leader in Rajya Sabha while moving two motions for removal from office of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court in Rajya Sabha on August 17 2011
I RISE to move these motions in response to the call of duty to my country and my Constitution. Particularly, I rise at a time when waves of protests are taking place all across the country on the issue of corruption at high places. But, I think, though by accident and not by design, these motions are coming up for debate before us in this august House very fortuitously and it is happening at a time when the parliament can also exercise its will and resolve of fighting corruption in high places. And it is in that context I rise to move these motions, as you have mentioned, fully conscious of the solemnity of the occasion. I also rise with a deep sense of anguish to move these motions.
I shall return to these aspects a little later. Let me first move these motions. I beg to move the following motion:
This House resolves that an address be presented to the President for removal from office of Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court on the following two grounds of misconduct:-
(iii) Misappropriation of large sums of money, which he received in his capacity as receiver appointed by the High Court of Calcutta; and
(iv) Misrepresented facts with regard to the misappropriation of money before the High Court of Calcutta.
I also move the following motion:
This House do consider the Report of the Inquiry Committee in regard to investigation and proof of the misbehaviour alleged against Soumitra Sen, judge, High Court of Calcutta which was laid on the Table of the House on the 10th November, 2010.
As I have said earlier, I moved these motions fully conscious of the solemnity of the occasion. This arises from the fact that it is for the first time that this august House is considering the invocation of our Constitutional provisions for the adoption of such motions. This has not happened in our history so far. I also wish to categorically state that by moving this motion we are not moving against the judiciary as a whole which we hold in the highest of esteem.
This is not a motion questioning the integrity of the judiciary. This is a motion against one judge who has been found to have indulged in conduct that constitutes the definition of misbehaviour within the meaning of our Constitution. It thus makes this judge unsuitable to occupy the exalted office of a judge of a High Court.
Individual acts of misbehaviour cannot find refuge behind the integrity of the judiciary as a whole. The issue is one of infallibility and, therefore, the integrity of one individual judge and not the integrity of the judiciary as a whole. This motion is, therefore, moved, as I have said, not to question the integrity but to strengthen that very integrity of our judiciary from being besmirched by one act of a single judge.
Our Constitution very rightly provides the judiciary with a very important position and role. People’s faith in the independence and integrity of our judiciary is a very crucial element in the functioning and maturing of our democracy. It would be a very sad day if this faith of the people is undermined due to the acts of conduct of an individual member. The judiciary is held in high esteem by both the people and the system as it dispenses with justice and is one of the important organs of our State. The judges are correctly assumed to be people of character, honesty and integrity who discharge their duties and functions without fear or favour in the spirit of upholding justice. It is, therefore, a call of duty to the nation to correct any aberration that may lead to the undermining of this faith. I have moved this motion in response to this call of duty.
As I have said, I moved these motions also with a deep sense of anguish. There is no sense of frivolity or elation, neither is there any sense of vindictiveness or retribution. These motions are, therefore, moved with full sanction of our Constitution and in accordance with these provisions. My grandfather retired as a judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court when I was eight years old and I learnt at that time that a judge is not a judge only in the court, but a judge is a judge everywhere else in the society and that his acts, inside or outside the court, are a reflection on the judiciary as a whole.
I think this spirit has been contained in the Inquiry Report. I quote from the Inquiry Committee Report. It says, "A judge of the High Court is placed on a high pedestal in our Constitution simply because judges of High Courts like judges of the Supreme Court have functions and wield powers of life and death over citizens and inhabitants of this country, such as are not wielded by any other public body or authority. It is a power coupled with a duty, on the part of the judge to act honourably at all times whether in court or out of court. Citation of case law is superfluous because the categories of 'misbehaviour' are never closed.
“In interpreting Articles 124 (4) and (5) and the provisions of the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 and when considering any question relating to the removal of a judge of the higher Judiciary from his office, it must not be forgotten that it was to secure to the people of India a fearless and independent judiciary that the judges of Superior Courts were granted a special position in the Constitution with complete immunity from premature removal from the office except by the cumbersome process prescribed in Articles 124 (4) and (5) read with the law enacted by parliament, the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968. The very vastness of the powers vested in the Higher Judiciary and the extraordinary immunity granted to judges of the High Courts and of the Supreme Court require that judges should be fearless and independent and that they should adopt a high standard of rectitude so as to inspire confidence in members of the public who seek redress before them. While it is necessary to protect the judges from motivated and malicious attacks, it is also necessary to protect the fair image of the institution of the Judiciary from such of those judges who choose to conduct themselves in a manner that would tarnish this image. The word 'misbehaviour' after all is the antithesis of 'good behaviour'. It is a breach of the condition subsequent upon which the guarantee of a fixed judicial tenure rests. High judicial office is essentially a public trust and it is the right of the people through its representatives in the parliament to revoke this trust but only when there is 'proved misbehaviour'."
This is what I think the Inquiry Committee has proven in its report that it submitted to the chairman of this House and which has been laid on the Table of the House. The Constitution also provides specific provisions which are not only essential for the independence of the judiciary, but also for safeguards in the process of the removal of a judge. These provisions, in my opinion, are aimed at strengthening independence of the judiciary rather than undermining it.
The provisions for removal, however, are the most stringent and come into effect only in the case of 'proved misbehaviour'. I think, this House must refresh itself with strict safeguards that have been provided by the Constitution in order to ensure that no particular member of the judiciary is moved against in a spirit of vendetta or vindictiveness. These are: (1) At least 50 Members of the Rajya Sabha or 100 Members of the Lok Sabha must bring a motion in either House; (2) The chairman or the speaker will apply his or her mind before admitting the motion; (3) Once admitted, the chairman or the speaker will constitute a high level inquiry committee under the Judges Inquiry Act; the concerned judge will have full opportunity for defence before this Committee; (4) If the Committee does not find the judge guilty, then the matter ends there with no scope of any parliamentary or judicial review. It is only when the Committee finds the concerned judge guilty, will the matter come up before the parliament; (5) The parliament cannot decide the matter by a simple majority; a two-thirds majority is required. The concerned judge will have the opportunity to make his defence once again before the parliament, in that House where it is moved.
Sixthly, both the Houses of parliament will
have to decide, by two-thirds of majority, separately
and within the same session of parliament.
Finally, even after his removal by the president of
The Report of the Inquiry Committee has been laid before parliament, on the 10th of September, as I have said, and the Report, unambiguously upholds these charges. I quote: “Whether the grounds of misconduct, which Justice Soumitra Sen has been charged with, if proved, amount to misbehaviour under article 124 (4) read with article 217 (1) of proviso (b). In the opinion of the Committee, the grounds of misconduct, when proved, would amount to misbehaviour under the relevant articles.” Then, it proceeds to establish this unambiguously. It enlightens us how this entire concept of misbehaviour had come in the Act of 1935, in the Constituent Assembly Debates, and how, under the present constitutional provisions, both the charges against Justice Soumitra Sen have been held to be valid and unambiguously correct. I quote: “In view of the findings on Charge I and Charge II above, the Inquiry Committee is of the opinion that Justice Soumitra Sen of Calcutta High Court is guilty of misbehaviour under article 124 read with proviso (b) to article 127 (1) of the Constitution of India.” So, after this, I think, the matter needs to be treated as closed. I would like to refer to one of the aspects that Justice Soumitra Sen has referred to in his defence. He invokes, from French history, the Dreyfus Affair. Then, he proceeds to say, “The march of time has witnessed thousands, all over the world, wrongly persecuted in the name of justice and for upholding the rule of law.”
He then proceeds to cast aspersions on the
then chief justice of
And, it is on that basis that our Constitution has also been drawn up. And, while working out the mechanics of the three wings to play a joint participatory role in our Constitution, we define the centrality of the will of the people. The Preamble begins by saying, “We, the people”. This centrality of the will of the people, is expressed through its elected representatives in parliament, and this centrality is supreme in our constitutional scheme of things. And it is with this supremacy today that we are taking up this matter. And I wish, instead of quoting the Dreyfus Affair, we would have rather recollected what we stand for today, on the basis of what law, and whether these laws are being violated.
if at all you want to go back into history,
I think it is more appropriate to recollect the
debate in the British parliament on the Censure Motion against
Robert Clive when he was charged with
amassing huge amounts of money after the
Battle of Plassey and the loot of Kolkata. Thomas Babington Macaulay,
Macaulay who is known for his infamous
minute on education in colonial
Another historic case is the impeachment of Warren Hastings. For seven long years the House of Lords heard the case of Warren Hastings after the House of Commons had impeached him. Edmond Burke in one of his most memorable orations, when he introduced this case to the House of Lords stated "Law and arbitrary power are in eternal enmity". And, then, he proceeds to define judges thus: "Judges are guided and governed by the eternal laws of justice to which we are all subject. We may bite our chains if we will, but we shall be made to know ourselves and be taught that man is born to be governed by law and that he who substitutes will in the place of law is an enemy of God." This was more than two centuries ago. Where we affirm faith in our Constitution, the faith was affirmed in God then. So, do not misunderstand when this quotation is quoted here.
labour of argument of Justice Sen's reply has been that the
motion moved by me and 57 other colleagues
contain any specific amounts of money
that have been misappropriated. Yes,
the motion does not contain; the motion
was appended with the letter of the then chief justice of
The letter says, “On 10th September, 2007, I had asked Justice Soumitra Sen to furnish his fresh and final response to the judicial observations made against him. After seeking more time for this purpose, he furnished his response on 28th Septebmer, 2007 requesting that he may be allowed to resume duties in view of the order of the Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court. Since I felt that a proper probe was required to be made into the allegations to bring the matter to a logical conclusion, I constituted a three-member committee consisting of Justice A P Shah, the then chief justice of the Madras High Court, Justice A K Patnaik, the then chief justice of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh and Justice R N Lodha, judge of the Rajasthan High Court. The in-house procedure adopted by the Supreme Court and various High Courts is as envisaged in this procedure to conduct a fact-finding inquiry. The committee submitted its report on such and such date, etc.” Then, it concluded by saying, I will read out the main charges: “(1) Shri Soumitra Sen did not have honest intentions right from the year 1993. Since he mixed the money received as a receiver and his personal money and converted receiver’s money to his own use, there has been a misappropriation at least temporarily of the sale proceeds. (a) He received Rs 24,57,000 between 25th February, 1993 to 10th January, 1995. But, the balance in his account number so and so and dated so and so was only Rs 8,83,963.05. (b) Further, a sum of Rs 22,83,000 was then transferred by him into so and so account number, name so and so, and the entire amount was withdrawn in a couple of months reducing the balance to a bare minimum of Rs 811, diverting the sale proceeds for his own use with dishonest intentions. (c) He gave false explanation to the court that an amount of Rs 25 lakhs was invested from the account where the sale proceeds were kept whereas in fact the amount of Rs.25 lakhs was withdrawn from Special Officer’s account number so and so and not from the account number so and so in which the sale proceeds were deposited. (d) Mere monetary deposit under the compulsion of judicial orders does not obliterate breach of trust and misappropriation of receiver’s funds for personal gain. (e) The conduct of Shri Soumitra Sen has brought disrepute to the high judicial office and dishonour for the institution of judiciary undermining the faith and confidence reposed by the public in the administration of justice.” Then, he goes on to say, “A detailed representation was made by Justice Soumitra Sen on 25th February, 2008 and a collegium consisting of himself, that is, chief justice of India, Justice B N Aggarwal and Justice Ashok Bahl, senior most judges of the Supreme Court, gave a hearing to Shri Soumitra Sen and reiterated the advice given to him to submit his resignation or seek voluntary retirement on or before 2nd April, 2008. However, vide his letter dated 26th March, 2008, Justice Soumitra Sen expressed his inability to tender resignation or seek voluntary retirement.”
So, the charges are very specific and an in-house Inquiry Committee consisting of two chief justices and a justice of a High Court has gone into it and established it. A collegium of senior most judges of the Supreme Court has re-established them. Now, the Inquiry Committee constituted by chairman of Rajya Sabha has, once again, unambiguously established it. So, I do not think there is any degree of ambiguity on the veracity of these charges. Since they stand established by three separate, independent and duly constituted authorities, I think, this is a matter that should be accepted by us as the final issue that these charges have been now proved.
Therefore, in view of this, I feel that there is no other option but for us to proceed with these motions. We have to move against a judge in order to strengthen the integrity and safeguard the institution of our judiciary. I would like to appeal and go back to the speech of Edmund Burke in the House of Lords when he finally makes the appeal to the Lordships, and I quote, “My Lords, if you must fall, you may so fall. But if you stand, and stand, I trust you will, may you stand as unimpeached in honour as in power. May you stand not as a substitute for virtue, but as an ornament of virtue, as a security for virtue. May you stand as a sacred temple for the perpetual residence of inviolable justice.” And this is the inviolable justice that this House today represents when it converts itself into a Bar, when it takes up these Constitutional provisions, it is the temple of inviolable justice.
And, therefore, a sacred temple for the perpetual
residence of inviolable justice, that is what this House must be.
temple are used in the terms that Pandit Nehru used after