BENGAL JUDICIARY: Judge in ‘vacuum of silence’ – legally, justice denied, moral turpitude the practiced norm in Bengal, no time buzzer ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH LEGAL CORRESPONDENT
New Delhi, July 18: Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Sen has not adduced any evidence to disprove misappropriation allegations despite repeated opportunities, a peers’ committee probing the charges was told today.
“There is a vacuum of silence on the judge’s part,” Siddharth Luthra, the counsel assisting the committee, said.
Sen, who is facing impeachment proceedings over the allegations, was yet to lead either oral or written evidence to disprove the case, Luthra said. “Without evidence, his written statement (of defence) is not even worth the paper on which it is written.”
Sen was yet to lead evidence to show when, where and how the funds — placed under his charge as receiver while he was a lawyer — were moved without court orders, Luthra said.
“His written statement only explains facts. But no original document has been produced to show how, when and where the funds went.”
Sen is facing impeachment proceedings on grounds of misbehaviour which, if proved, would lead to his removal from office.
Misappropriation would amount to “moral turpitude” qualifying as misbehaviour to disqualify a person from the post, he said.
The peers’ committee, set up by the Rajya Sabha after a motion was introduced in the House seeking his removal, has charged him with misappropriation and misrepresentation to the high court.
Sen stayed away from the proceedings on the first day today. He will be represented by a pleader. Senior lawyer Shekhar Naphade is expected to lead his defence when arguments resume tomorrow.
Luthra, who began the arguments, said mere repayment of money did not exhaust the offence of misappropriation. “Misappropriation is a continuous offence. It is complete as soon as he took the money. His liability does not cease even on his elevation as a judge. Neither does discharge take away from his liability to give accounts.”
Sen had, in his defence, denied the charge of misappropriation on the ground that mere withdrawal did not amount to misappropriation. He had also pointed out that he had repaid the principal amount of Rs 33 lakh along with the interest.
Sen was a lawyer when he received the money as a receiver in a suit between two parties. He was asked by the high court to hold the money free of all “encumbrances” in an account. Instead, he opened two accounts and disbursed the money without court orders, Luthra said.
He took two years to dispose of goods he had been asked to sell in four months, deposited the money in two accounts, disbursed it without court orders and used it for personal benefit, Luthra added.
“He took the money and utilised it for personal use in the most blatant and unrepentant way,” Luthra said. Such conduct amounted to contempt of court, he said.
Till date, Sen had failed to give any accounts for the money either to a division bench of the high court — which had exonerated him of wrongdoing but passed adverse remarks against him —or the committee.
He had neither led evidence nor come into the witness box, Luthra said. “He has chosen not to come into the witness box. Not a single witness has so far come forward to give accounts.”
His defence even in the high court was an unqualified apology and a statement that it was an “error of judgement”.
Such conduct even as a lawyer — especially in cases in which one holds money as a receiver, an agent of the court —would have been followed with grave consequences under the Bar Council of India rules.