STATEMENT BY MR. JUSTICE K.G. BALAKRISHNAN, CHAIRPERSON, NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION AND FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE OF INDIA.
15th December, 2010
In the wake of reporting in some sections of media recently, it appears that an attempt is being made to create a wedge between the high institutions of judiciary and attach motives over the allegations of a union Minister having spoken to a judge to influence his judicial function, which is unfortunate. I am issuing this statement only with the hope that the facts will not be twisted and henceforth no motives will be attached to the judiciary.
I have seen the Press Release by Justice H.L. Gokhale, Judge of the Supreme Court of India. I have not said that the judge had sent an incorrect or false report to me regarding the alleged incident or suppressed any facts. I only stated that in the report given to me, no mention was made of any Minister having spoken to the judge of the Madras High Court. In the report also no name of any Minister was mentioned.
From the media reports subsequent to the press release by Justice Gokhale, it appears that I suppressed certain facts to save somebody. I never wanted to publish any confidential letter received by me in my capacity as Chief Justice of India. But as the contents of the letter by the Chief Justice of India to the Chief Justice of Madras High Court, and also the letters written by the Chief Justice of Madras High Court to CJI have already been made public through that Press Release, with much reluctance I am constrained to quote from my personal file, the full text of the report dated 08th August, 2009, given by the then Chief Justice of Madras High Court to me so that the matter be clarified.
“Respected My Lord,
I have received your Lordship’s letter dated 8th August 2009 forwarding a copy of the memorandum by a number of Members of the Parliament to the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India. It is concerning the alleged statement made by Mr. Justice R. Reghupathi in open Court, and Your Lordship has asked me to give my views/comments relating to the issue raised in the said memorandum. The first paragraph of the memorandum states that the controversy arose when a Chennai High Court Judge made a statement in the open Court that a Union Minister had telephoned him in a matter concerning a mark sheet forgery case with the recommendation that the accused should be given bail. This statement is contrary to what the Hon’ble Judge has stated in paragraph 3 of his letter dated 2nd July 2009 which I have forwarded to Your Lordship as permitted by the learned Judge. As per that letter the learned Judge has not made any such statement in the Court. In that paragraph the learned Judge has narrated the background to explain what he has stated in the Court, and thereafter he has stated “I observed that a counsel, who made an attempt to exert influence on the Court by using the name of a cabinet Minister, cannot be allowed to succeed in snatching an order in his favour by advancing threat”. The learned Judge has, thereafter, removed the matter from his Court.
2. The second paragraph of the Memorandum states as follows:
“According to reports, the Judge has subsequently ‘clarified’ that the Minister had not spoken to him directly but that the lawyer appearing in the case on behalf of the accused had come to his chamber and informed him that the Union Minister would like to speak to him and even dialed the number to facilitate the conversation.”
The second paragraph of the letter of Honourable Mr. Justice Reghupathi clarifies the fact in this behalf, viz, that the Minister had not spoken to him although the advocate wanted him to talk to the Minister, and the learned Judge had not entertained the request.
3. Thereafter, paragraph 3 of the memorandum states that ‘assuming this clarification to be correct, it is still an attempt to interfere in the judicial process by the said Minister. If, on the other hand, the lawyer was bluffing, it calls for the most severe action against him”. This paragraph records certain questions which according to the memorandum arise out of this incident. Now, as can be seen from the letter of the learned Judge, he has clearly stated that the Minister did not speak to him. However, as far as the Advocate is concerned, the learned Judge has, in clear terms, stated that the Advocate did try to exert pressure on him. With respect to the conduct of the said advocate, two writ petitions are pending before another Bench of this High Court. A writ petition filed in Public Interest dated 2nd July 2009 seeking action against the Minister has been dismissed on 20.07.2009 as not pressed.
This is for Your Lordship’s consideration,
With kind regards,”
I am certain that in the report received from the Chief Justice of Madras High Court, no name of the Union Minister was mentioned, and that there was no case that any minister himself made telephonic talk with the Judge or threatened or influenced him. Hence, no action could have been taken based on that report of the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.
I maintain that I did not receive any letter from Justice Reghupathi addressed to me, and it is not the practice also to have correspondence with the judges, but always seek report from the concerned Chief Justice of the High Court, in case any issue brought to the notice of the CJI warrants so, which I did in this case. In matters of this nature, the Chief Justice of India can only go by the conclusive report of the Chief Justice of the High Court concerned, and that alone could be relied and acted upon. And in this issue, as per the report of the Chief Justice Madras High Court, there was no cogent ground made out for a case against any Union Minister.
I would reiterate that in any case if the concerned Judge felt that anybody, be it a Union Minister, tried to influence his judicial function, he could have proceeded against him, without seeking any direction from the CJI or the Chief Justice of High Court, under the contempt of the Court. In fact, the case on a Writ Petition against the concerned advocate in the Madras High Court is based on that ground only, which resulted in his suspension from the Bar Council of Madras and Pondicherry and the matter is still sub-judice.
All these matters were brought to the notice of the Union Law Minister on the 18th August, 2009, in response to his letter to me drawing reference to the memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister by the MPs of different political parties. There was no question of suppressing the report of the Chief Justice of Madras High Court.
New Delhi, December 8th, 2010
In some sections of media a news story is being run alleging that Justice R. Reghupathi of the Madras High Court had written a letter to me while I was the Chief Justice of India alleging that the then Union Minister, Shri A. Raja had tried to influence him and that I suppressed that letter. Thereby, casting aspersion on me that I had committed dereliction of duty. I regret to say that the allegations are absolutely incorrect. I had not received any such letter or communication from Justice Reghupathi while I was in office. When this incident was reported in the media, I sought for a report from the then Chief Justice of Madras High Court, Justice Gokhale and he sent me a report wherein nothing was mentioned about any Union Minister having made a telephonic talk with Justice Reghupathi to influence him. Therefore, there was no occasion for me to talk to the Prime Minister or to take any further action. I had disclosed these facts at the relevant time. Moreover, if anything happened like that which amounted to interference in the judicial function of Justice Reghupathi, he himself could have exercised his powers of contempt of court for which no permission is required from the Chief Justice of India. It appears that Justice Reghupathi made a statement that he reported the matter to the Chief Justice and he certainly meant the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court and not the Chief Justice of India. These facts may be verified. The letter which was written by the then Chief Justice of Madras High Court Justice Gokhale to the then Chief Justice of India, wherein there was no mention of the name of any Union Minister, may be available in the office of the present Chief Justice of India.
- No cogent ground for case against Raja in Gokhale’s report: Justice Balakrishnan (thehindu.com)
- No cogent ground for case against Raja in Gokhale’s report: Balakrishnan (thehindu.com)
- Letter sent to former CJI had mention of Raja: Supreme Court Judge (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Former CJI was aware of letter naming Raja: Gokhale (thehindu.com)
- Ex-CJI was aware of letter naming Raja, says Gokhale (thehindu.com)
- The truth should come out. What did the Chief Justice of India do when a High Court Judge was threatened by a Minister? (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- I did not want to bypass hierarchy: Regupathi (thehindu.com)
- Raja denies influencing Madras HC judge (ibnlive.in.com)
- Raja tried to influence a judge: Madras HC (ibnlive.in.com)
- Court orders suspension of Chairman of Tamil Nadu Bar Council (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- Chief Justice of India Asks All District Courts , High Courts and Supreme Court to Fast Track Corruption Cases (indialawyers.wordpress.com)