New Delhi: Calcutta High Court Judge Soumitra Sen on Wednesday asserted he is not guilty of financial irregularities when impeachment proceedings against him began in the Rajya Sabha with Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury moving the motion.

Sen is the second judge in India's history after Justice V. Ramaswami of the Supreme Court in May 1993 to face impeachment proceedings for unbecoming conduct. The motion against Ramaswami, however, fell through in the Lok Sabha as the ruling Congress abstained from voting.

In a powerful speech, Yechury said the motion - highlighting financial irregularities by Sen - was against an individual judge and not against the institution of the judiciary itself, which has been assigned a central position in the Indian Constitution and is held in high esteem.

'A high judicial office is an office of trust. This motion has been moved to strengthen judiciary,' he said.

'I am not wrong,' said Sen in his reply, arguing that the charges against him related to his role as a lawyer appointed receiver by the high court and not as a judge.

'There have been no complaints against my honesty and integrity,' Sen said. He added that he has been cleared of the charges by a division bench of the high court.

According to him 'mere diversion of funds did not amount to misappropriation of funds'.

Sen said that there was a presumption of guilt against him by the then Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, when he ordered an inquiry by a committee of judges.

Sen mentioned the name of Balakrishnan several times as one who was biased against him at every stage of the inquiry.

After Sen's defence, the House will debate the motion and vote on it. If the motion is passed by two-thirds of the members present and voting, it will go to the Lok Sabha within a week. If it is approved by both the Houses of Parliament, the motion would go to the President, who can order the removal of the judge from office.

The controversial judge was found guilty by a special three-member committee constituted by Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Hamid Ansari.

The committee found charges of financial irregularities against Sen to be correct. He is accused of misappropriating around Rs 24 lakh in the 1990s when he was a lawyer and appointed receiver by the high court.

RS begins impeachment proceedings

Earlier, Justice Sen appeared before a 'bar' "posted" at the gate of the central aisle of the Upper House facing the Chairman as CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury moved motions against him.

The first of the two grounds of misconduct against Sen being cited in the motion is misappropriation of large sums of money, which he received in his capacity as receiver appointed by the high court.

The second ground is that he misrepresented facts with regard to the misappropriation of money before the High Court.

Moving the motions, Yechury said he was doing so with "deep sense of anguish and the move was not against the judiciary, which we hold high esteem but against a judge for his misbehaviour."

One of the motions read that "this House do consider the report of the inquiry committee in regard to investigation and proof of misbehaviour alleged against Shri Soumitra Sen, Judge, High Court of Calcutta."

(Agencies)