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Justice Soumitra Sen escapes impeachment

New Delhi: Having become the first judge to be impeached by Rajya Sabha, Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court on Monday escaped a similar fate in the Lok Sabha which decided not not to proceed with his impeachment following his last-minute resignation.

The Lok Sabha, before which the impeachment business was listed today, dropped it after a `Sense of the House` was taken when Law Minister Salman Khurshid conveyed to it information about Justice Sen`s resignation on September 1.

The House was to impeach Sen for "misconduct" and "misappropriation of funds" in the capacity of a Court Receiver, over which he was impeached overwhelmingly by the Rajya Sabha on August 18.

So far, no judge has been impeached by both Houses of Parliament. Justice V Ramaswami of the Supreme Court escaped being impeached in the mid 90s when a motion against him fell through in the Lok Sabha because the ruling Congress MPs abstained from voting rendering the process futile.

When the House met at 2 PM to take up the business relating to Sen, Khurshid made a brief statement in which he said "I have to bring to the notice of the Speaker and this House that Justice Soumitra Sen, judge of the Calcutta High Court, has resigned from office under Proviso 1(a) of Article 217 of the Constitution."

Speaker Meira Kumar then sought the sense of the House to drop the proceedings against Sen.

"Is it the sense of the House that we may not proceed with agenda item no. 12," she asked.

Members responded by saying after which she declared that the "House agrees".

That the Lok Sabha may not go ahead with the impeachment was clear yesterday when President Pratibha Patil approved the notification on Sen`s resignation.

This morning the government decided against going ahead with the impeachment business at a meeting Finance Minister and Leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee had with Khurshid and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.

Earlier, the Speaker also held consultations with the government and political parties on the issue.

After reports that Justice Sen had sent his resignation by fax, Attorney General G E Vahanvati had opined on Friday that impeachment proceedings, having already been completed in the Rajya Sabha, should be completed by the other House.

But on Saturday after the resignation under the hand of the judge was received by Rashtrapati Bhawan, sources close to the AG had said that the matter was over and the impeachment would have to lapse.

The first opinion of the AG was 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 hand-written by the judge as per Art 217 (a) of the Constitution.

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