SC seeks status of graft charge against ex-CJI
Dhananjay Mahapatra, TNN, Feb 19, 2011,
NEW DELHI: Former Chief Justice of India KJ Balakrishnan suffered a setback on Friday when the Supreme Court asked the government to detail the status of inquiry into a nine-month-old complaint accusing him and his kin of corruption.
The CBI’s anti-corruption branch in Kochi, which was tasked to inquire into the complaint, will now reveal the outcome of its probe to the court through attorney general GE Vahanvati within two weeks.
Justice Balakrishnan has been under a cloud following allegations of a spike in the assets of his family members during his stint in the country’s top court. He has so far shrugged aside demands, including from retired SC judge VR Krishna Iyer, that he disclose his assets. The former CJI also opposed a Right to Information plea on his tax returns.
While the intervention by his former peers should test his resistance, the apex court’s bold curiosity about the status of investigation into assets can cause anxiety also to the powerful accused in the spectrum case. The court is monitoring investigation into the 2G spectrum case, and has stressed that CBI disregard the status of the accused. Justice Balakrishnan refused to comment on the SC asking for the probe status report on Friday. The inquiry into the former CJI’s assets also addresses the criticism that judiciary is reluctant to act on complaints against its members.
Justice Balakrishnan was the first CJI from the dalit community who, after his retirement, was appointed chief of National Human Rights Commission — a position he still holds. Delhi-based Mohammad Furqan had levelled corruption charges against him in a complaint to the President and Vice-President on May 4 last year. While requesting the President not to appoint him as head of the human rights body, Furqan had sought a thorough probe into the allegations against him and his relatives.
The court on Friday asked for the status of this complaint, which was forwarded to the CBI’s anti-corruption branch in Kochi. A Bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar sought the AG’s assistance in the matter. The Bench’s query came prior to it hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate M L Sharma, who sought a judicial inquiry into recent allegations against Justice Balakrishnan, his son, son-in-law and brother.
The court told Vahanvati, “This is a petition seeking judicial inquiry into alleged misbehaviour of the NHRC chairperson. We will deal with the PIL later. But, there was a complaint sent to the Vice-President, who referred it to the home ministry. We want to know what is the status of the complaint.” Vahanvati said he would inquire into it and get back to the court within two weeks.The V-P’s secretariat had on June 21, 2010, written to the home secretary that the complaint “regarding investigation of assets of former CJI” was being forwarded to him for “appropriate action”. The ministry sent the complaint to CBI, New Delhi.
The CBI, on August 10, 2010, forwarded the complaint to its anti-corruption branch in Kochi, Kerala, the home state of Justice Balakrishnan. The communication to superintendent of police, CBI ACB, Kochi, had said, “The complaint is being forwarded to your office for taking further necessary action as deemed fit. CBI, ACB, New Delhi, has not undertaken any inquiry or verification with reference to the matter.”
Furqan`s allegations against Justice Balakrishnan ranged from out-of-turn hearing of an appeal of CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan in SNC Lavlin case to his son`s alleged visits to Dubai for an ulterior purpose relating to another pending case. Justice Balakrishnan had rejected the allegations and said that his relatives facing charges of disproportionate assets were answerable to the statutory machinery dealing with the cases.
Furqan had also alleged that value of the assets declared by Justice Balakrishnan were “far below the actual assets owned by him and his family members”. The judges, while declaring their assets, give the price at which assets were acquired and not their present market value.
PIL petitioner Sharma had requested the court “to advise the President of India to refer/initiate a judicial inquiry under Article 317 to the Supreme Court to prove misbehaviour of former CJI K G Balakrishnan.”
Sharma said even former Supreme Court judge, Justice V Krishna Iyer, had on December 28 last year demanded a probe into the charges against Justice Balakrishnan`s son-in-law and relatives but law minister M Veerappa Moily had declined the request.
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- 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 have nothing to hide, says Balakrishnan (hindu.com)
- I’ve nothing to hide: Balakrishnan (hindu.com)
- A case of judicial inaction (indialawyers.wordpress.com)
- The NHRC chief must resign (indialawyers.wordpress.com)