Justice S.R. Sen is a former teacher and lawyer who serves as a judge in the Meghalaya High Court.
New Delhi: Justice S.R. Sen of the Meghalaya High Court, who was in the news this week for suggesting that India should have been declared a Hindu nation at Partition, is not quite a stranger to controversy.
Just earlier this month, the former teacher and lawyer had asked the Meghalaya government to extend medical services and facilities to the spouses and children of retired judges as well, then issued a contempt notice to leading Meghalaya newspaper The Shillong Times for questioning the order.
Despite his position as a judge, he doesn’t shy away from praising the government of Narendra Modi.
Over 4,000 orders and judgments
Justice Sudip Ranjan Sen was born in Shillong on 9 March 1957, when the state was still a part of Assam.
He comes from a family of lawyers and was brought up in the Meghalaya capital, where he completed his LLB from Shillong Law College, which comes under the North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU).
According to a profile on the Meghalaya High Court website, he started his working life as a teacher but became a lawyer in 1989, handling both civil and criminal matters. He served as a lawyer of the Meghalaya government between 1997 and 2000, before setting out on a judicial career.
After a stint as a district judge, he was sworn in as additional judge of the united Gauhati High Court for the ‘seven sisters’ of the Northeast in 2012. When the court was split to carve out independent high courts for Meghalaya, Manipur and Tripura in 2013, he returned to his home state.
According to the Meghalaya High Court website, Sen has since issued 4,323 orders and judgments.
Justice Sen’s “Hindu nation” remark came Monday, as he came to the relief of an Army recruit, Amon Rana, who was denied a domicile certificate by Meghalaya.
“[Upon Partition], Pakistan declared themselves as an Islamic country and India since was divided on the basis of religion should have also been declared as a Hindu country but it remained as a secular country (sic),” he said Monday.
Then, he sought to issue a warning that if anyone “tried to turn India into an Islamic country… it would be doomsday for India and the world”.
Justice Sen added that “only this government under Shri Narendra Modiji will understand the gravity, and will do the needful as requested above and our [West Bengal] chief minister Mamataji will support the national interest in all respect (sic)”.
Last week, the judge took umbrage after The Shillong Times published an article headlined ‘When judges judge for themselves’. The article reportedly sought to question his order to the state government to bring the spouses and children of retired judges within the ambit of medical facilities, as well as resume certain facilities, including guest houses and Rs 10,000 mobile/internet reimbursement, for retired judges.
Issuing a contempt notice to the newspaper, the judge, who is scheduled to retire in March next year, said: “Media is not to dictate to the court what the court should do…
“It is really shocking that the publisher and editor of the said newspaper without knowing the law or background of the case are making comments which are definitely derogatory to a judge who is handling the case as well as the entire fraternity of the judges…” he added. “When the matter is pending before the court, media has no business to comment on it.”
Last week, a bench comprising Justice Sen and led by Meghalaya High Court Chief Justice M.Y. Mir gave some commercial airlines a week to set a date for launching operations from the Umroi airport, 30 km from Meghalaya’s capital Shillong, to New Delhi and other metros.
The order was stayed Thursday by a CJI-headed bench after the petitioners challenged the order in the Supreme Court on the ground that the airport was ill-equipped to handle the aircraft they had.
When he stripped village headmen of powers
He issued a significant order in November last year, when he imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on the additional deputy commissioner (ADC) of the South Garo Hills district for failing to complete the trial of alleged militant Champion R. Sangma within the three-month deadline set by the court.
The high court also ordered that the case be transferred to a local court. “Such acts and deeds on behalf of the ADC, Baghmara, definitely amount to contempt of court,” Justice Sen had said in his order.
Another came exactly four years before his “Hindu nation” observation, on 10 December 2014, when he stripped tribal village headmen of their powers to rule over the lives of locals.
The order came after a group of villagers moved the court following their excommunication by the headmen, including the denial of PDS rations, for marrying non-tribals.
Justice Sen had ruled at the time that the headmen in Meghalaya should confine themselves to social activities, and had “no power to issue any kind of certificate unless empowered by rule or laws”.
This judgment became a big deal because, in remote villages, people heavily depend on the headmen to represent them and their interests.
Last month, Justice Sen pulled up the state government for not paying pension to ad hoc teachers.
“We find the decision of the Government is totally unjustified and arbitrary in nature…,” Justice Sen had noted, “We also reiterated earlier that teachers are the backbone of society and they need to be cared [sic] and respected by all.”
The bench, which included Chief Justice M.Y. Mir, subsequently ruled that “both government school and college teachers as well as deficit/adhoc/aided are equally qualified and giving equal service, and they are entitled to equal pay, pension and other benefits”.
Other significant rulings passed by Justice Sen include ordering the Border Security Force to pay Rs 11 lakh as compensation to the family of a 16-year-old boy who died in a 2007 firing at a village in East Khasi Hills district, and directing the government not to deport dozens of petitioners whose Indian roots predated the 24 March 1971 migration cutoff date agreed between New Delhi and Dhaka.
The latter order, issued in May 2014, came after 40 individuals from Amjong village in Ri Bhoi district, whose ancestors came to India in 1961, moved court against the Meghalaya government and others after their names were not included in the electoral roll and the citizenship certificates seized.
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