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Justice Sen to escape impeachment

New Delhi: Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court appears to have succeeded in avoiding impeachment with his resignation reaching President Pratibha Patil today and rendering the removal proceedings in Lok Sabha infructuous.

Any doubts about the veracity of his resignation, which was faxed to Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday, were removed with the original handwritten letter under his signature being delivered to the President`s office this morning.

Justice Sen`s impeachment is on the Lok Sabha schedule for Monday but constitutional experts said tonight that the resignation had rendered impeachment proceedings infructuous.

The Rajya Sabha had impeached him last month.

Highly placed sources confirmed tonight that the proceedings in the lower house may now be dropped enabling the judge to avoid the ignominy of being the first judicial officer to be impeached by Parliament

Attorney General G E Vahanvati had opined yesterday that the impeachment proceedings, having already been completed in the Rajya Sabha, should be completed by the other house.

This opinion appears to have been based on the premise that the resignation letter faxed by Sen to Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday could not be taken cognisance of since such letters must be written in the hand of the judge as per Art 217 (a) of the Constitution.

That criterion was fulfilled today and as constitutional expert P P Rao noted, "impeachment proceedings are intended to remove a judge from the post. But once he has resigned you cannot remove him. Therefore, the proceedings become infructuous."

Another expert K K Venugopal said that once a High Court judge submits resignation it would operate straightaway.

However, if the resignation mentions a prospective date, it is open to a judge to withdraw it before it is accepted."

However, former Lok Sabha Secretary General Subash Kashyap was of the opinion that, "if the resignation is found to be mala fide, the President may say this is only to avoid (impeachment) proceedings in which case she may allow the Lok Sabha to continue the proceedings."

He also said the Speaker would have to be guided by the opinion of the Attorney General.

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