Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court was found guilty of misappropriating Rs33.23 lakh under his custody as a court-appointed receiver in the capacity as a lawyer, and misrepresenting facts before a Calcutta court in a 1983 case
Kolkata: Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court on Thursday avoided the ignominy of becoming the first judge to be impeached by Parliament by tendering his resignation, reports PTI.
53-year-old justice Sen sent in his resignation to president Pratibha Patil five days before the Lok Sabha was to take up an impeachment motion against him.
The Rajya Sabha has already passed the motion making him the first judge to have been impeached by the Upper House for misconduct.
In his letter to the president, justice Sen said, "I am not guilty of any form of corruption."
"There is no allegation against me that I am guilty of passing any order or judgement for extraneous consideration or that I have abused my power in any way so that my family or relatives or acquaintances have amassed wealth, but sadly I am still facing a motion of impeachment," he said.
The judge said in the anxiety to take definitive action against corruption, even a judgement passed by a division bench of the high court was being completely brushed aside with the remark that the judges had favoured him.
Justice Sen who dismissed the charges against him said, "I do not come from a family of judges or politicians." The judge said he had given up a fairly lucrative practice not to amass wealth by resorting to corruption but to serve the august institution being the judiciary and consequently the nation.
Justice Sen, in a separate letter to Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, said, "I wonder whether my issue is the real issue of corruption and abuse of power by people in high places or I am being made a sacrificial lamb in the alter of justice as a showcase to tell the nation that at least something has been done to clean the institution from corruption."
The judge admitted that he may have made 'mistakes' as a junior advocate 19 years back but went on to ask, 'who is above making mistakes, no human being is infallible, but to accuse me of dishonest intention as a judge or otherwise I firmly repudiate."
Justice Sen said like in the Rajya Sabha, he will not get a chance to respond to submissions made by members in the Lok Sabha in his absence and hence "it appears to be a foregone conclusion".
Along with the letter justice Sen gave a point by point rebuttal to three allegations against him made during the Rajya Sabha debate.
"I have decided not to go to the Lok Sabha and instead put in my papers," justice Sen, who was to have appeared before the Lok Sabha on 5th September, said.
Justice Sen was found guilty of misappropriating Rs33.23 lakh under his custody as a court-appointed receiver in the capacity as a lawyer, and misrepresenting facts before a Calcutta court in a 1983 case.
After a seven-hour long process marked by a brainstorming debate on 18th August, the Rajya Sabha had overwhelmingly approved the impeachment motion against Justice Sen.
189 members of the 206 present in the 245-member House voted in favour, recording well over 2/3rd majority required for such a move.
The impeachment, first time in the Rajya Sabha and second in Parliament's history, saw members of all parties, except BSP, holding Sen guilty of misconduct.
Appearing before the bar of the house, 53-year-old justice Sen had denied any wrongdoing and argued that he was a 'victim'. The judge had appealed to members to vote by conscience.
Impeachment proceedings were undertaken after an inquiry committee, set up by Rajya Sabha chairman, held justice Sen guilty of misconduct.
Justice Sen, who became a permanent judge of the Calcutta High Court in December, 2003, had blamed former Chief Justice of India (CJI) KG Balakrishnan of targeting him by becoming the accuser, prosecutor and a judge.
The judge said he was even threatened in the former CJI's drawing room with a CBI enquiry when he declined the offer to take VRS and a plum posting in return for his resignation.
The impeachment proceedings followed motions moved by Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) and leader of the opposition Arun Jaitley who made it clear that justice Sen's continuance as a judge had become untenable.
Following receipt of justice Sen's resignation letter, the Lok Sabha secretariat said the attorney general would be consulted on the issue.
Justice PD Dinakaran, Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court, against whom the Rajya Sabha chairman had set up a judicial panel to enquire into allegations of corruption, had resigned on 29th July this year, before impeachment proceedings could be initiated against him.
The first such case involved the impeachment motion in Lok Sabha of Justice V Ramaswami of the Supreme Court in May 1993 which fell due to lack of numbers after Congress members abstained.
Former finance secretary EAS Sarma asks government to reopen all environment assessment reports and to blacklist offending companies and consultants
Former power and finance secretary EAS Sarma has accused some private companies in Andhra Pradesh-many of them pharmaceutical manufacturers-of getting false environment impact assessment reports for their projects, and he charged the environment ministry with overlooking this and sanctioning the projects.
In a letter to the secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, JM Mauskar, Mr Sarma has also complained that the state level Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board has neglected its responsibility to conduct public hearings on the basis of these environment assessment reports, apparently because officials have vested interest.
He has demanded that all such assessment reports be re-examined and that the companies and consultants found guilty of such wrongful practice be blacklisted.
Mr Sarma gave the example of a report prepared by Rightsource Industrial Solutions for a bulk drug manufacturing project of Lohitha Lifesciences in Visakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh, parts of which have been copied blatantly from another report, that was prepared for a sponge iron plant.
"Prediction and identification of the environment impact is an important part of the environment study," Mr Sarma wrote. "The consulting company has evidently lifted paragraphs by cut-and-paste from another report on a sponge iron project elsewhere."
He has highlighted the copied portions and it would be relevant to mention the lines here to understand how blatantly this practice is going on. One line in the Lohitha's assessment report reads: "It is absolutely essential to study the impact of air pollution on its environs due to the proposed sponge iron plant."
This matter was raised at a recent public hearing of the state level expert appraisal committee of the ministry, but without any success. Mr Sarma says that the consultant has similarly copied parts of the same sponge iron factory environment report to prepare reports for two other clients, KS Pharma and JPR Labs. Some of Rightsource's other clients are Celon Organics, Vivin Laboratories, Integrin Life Sciences, KMTK Laboratories and Pharmaestro Laboratories.
Another example he has given is of the Ramky Group, whose company Ramky Infrastructure is listed on the stock exchanges. Ramky has set up its own environment assessment agency by the name of Ramky Enviro Engineers, and it has used this agency's services to get clearances for its gas-based power plants and waste recycling complex.
"Andhra Pradesh State Level Expert Appraisal Committee (APSEAC) has also an EIA report prepared by BS Envitech in January 2011, for the group's own project in East Godavari district," Mr Sarma said. "Clearly, there is conflict-of-interest in this. The Ministry of Environment and Forests cannot permit such reports to form the basis of public hearings." BS Envitech apparently has the accredition from the Quality Council of India.
In most cases, the reports have not been given a public hearing. "The environment impact assessment study is supposed to be the basis of a meaningful public hearing process. But neither the developers nor the consultants have bothered to consider this," Mr Sarma said.
He says that even the state pollution control board, which is responsible for arranging the public hearing, has failed to discharge its responsibility. "This is because many of the government officials have vested interests. I know a state-level appraisal committee member who joined one such company as a director as soon as the project was cleared."
What's worse is that regardless of these fraudulent reports, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has been benevolent in granting clearances to such projects. "I am surprised that neither the MoEF nor the Quality Council of India has laid down the basic norms to be observed by accredited consultants. I come back to my original proposal that the MoEF should institute a system of selecting the consultants at random and ensuring that their remuneration is delinked from the project developers," Mr Sarma said.
The decline has been attributed to a sharp decrease in new export business received during month. Panellists cited a softening in global economic conditions as the main contributor to the fall in new orders received from export markets
India's factory output, as measured by the HSBC Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), fell to 52.6 in August, down from 53.6 in July. The latest reading was the fourth successive moderation in the headline index.
The HSBC India Manufacturing PMI is based on data compiled from a survey of purchasing executives in over 500 manufacturing companies.
The decline has been attributed to a sharp decrease in new export business received during month. Panellists cited a softening in global economic conditions as the main contributor to the fall in new orders received from export markets. This contributed to a further slowdown in the growth rate of overall new work intakes, which was the weakest in the current 29-month sequence of expansion.
The August number signalled a marginal reduction of employment in the country's manufacturing sector, in contrast to the modest increase recorded in July. Anecdotal evidence suggested a more cautious approach to hiring given softer growth of new business.
Input prices continued to rise substantially, with the rate of cost inflation the fastest in four months. Higher raw material prices were cited as the main driver of the increase in input costs. Output prices continued to rise at a historically marked rate, despite slowing marginally since July.
Commenting on August data, Leif Eskesen, chief economist for India & ASEAN at HSBC said: "The growth momentum in India's manufacturing sector eased further in August mainly on account of a significant contraction in export orders, which are facing stiff global economic headwinds. Inflation pressures still remain elevated, with input prices accelerating and output prices still trekking up, albeit at a marginally slower pace. Overall, the numbers suggest a moderation rather than a collapse in growth, and they confirm that inflation remains the primary policy concern."