Probe KG Balakrishnan: Krishna Iyer

27 Dec 2010 By IANS

KOCHI: Retired Supreme Court justice V.R. Krishna Iyer Monday demanded a probe into the various allegations of corruption against former chief justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, currently the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission.

Speaking to the media at his home near here, Iyer said that he was happy when Balakrishnan became the first Dalit to be appointed chief justice, but the situation had changed now. "Now with all the allegations that have surfaced by way of a news report which appeared the other day about his son-in-law and also the issues of a judge writing to him on the (sacked communications minister) Raja issue regarding (senior Supreme Court judge) Justice (H.L.) Gokhale, I myself feel ashamed that I was a judge," said Iyer. He was referring to a news report aired on a TV channel Sunday about the huge wealth that his son-in-law P.V. Srinijin, a Congress leader and a lawyer by profession, had allegedly acquired in the past three years. "All the reports that have surfaced about his son-in-law, his daughter and relatives have to be inquired into," he said, adding that Balakrishnan should be probed by a three-judge panel. He also demanded the setting up of an appointments and performance commission for judges. Iyer was the law and irrigation minister in the world's first elected Communist government in 1957 led by E.M.S. Namboodiripad in Kerala. He was appointed as a judge of the Kerala High Court in 1968 and the Supreme Court in 1973. He retired from the apex court in November 1980.

He can’t be NHRC chief

By V Krishna Ananth
26 Dec 2010

K G Balakrishnan is a former chief justice of India and now heads the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). It is, therefore, an irony that he should seem to be lending his considerable weight and influence to an effort to drain public confidence in the higher judiciary.

The story begins with a Division Bench of the Madras High Court finding serious wrongdoing on the part of R K Chandramohen and directing his suspension from the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu. But for that, the question whether the former CJI foreclosed a case involving serious allegations against former Union telecom minister A Raja, even at the cost of letting the majesty of the law and the courts be eroded, would not have come up. One is obliged to Justices F M Ibrahim Khalifullah and M M Sundaresh for their order of December 7.

Coming to the issue, on June 12, 2010, Chandramohen, who is also chairman of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu, walked into Justice Regupathy’s chamber and tried to pressure the judge and obtain anticipatory bail for his client (a doctor and his son, a medical college student, accused in a marksheet scam and murder). He said Raja, then a Union minister, was interested in such an order and held out his mobile phone to the judge saying the minister was at the other end and wanted to talk. Justice Regupathy refused to entertain the lawyer.

No one knew about this until the judge, provoked by the same lawyer in open court, said he would reveal all that happened in his chamber. This was when the same case came up for hearing before Justice Regupathy on June 29. The judge did not reveal the minister’s identity. But anyone who knew the father-son duo could conclude that it was Raja. It was discussed in the corridors and the quadrangle where advocates engage in tittle-tattle.

The media reported all that was said in court the following day. And that led to two things. Regupathy wrote about what happened in his chamber to Chief Justice H L Gokhale on July 2. He in turn forwarded the letter along with a note to Balakrishnan, the CJI at that time, on July 5.

While none among us knew Regupathy had named Raja as the minister whose name was invoked by Chandramohen, the Chief Justice of India knew that. He did not act. Balakrishnan had another opportunity when, on the same issue, a memorandum by MPs to the Prime Minister was forwarded to him. He still did not act. His own letter to Gokhale, on August 8, 2009, mentioned the media reports and about “a Union minister”. Justice Balakrishnan then had the powers to order a case of contempt suo motu, but he did not.

He had the authority to order an investigation then and there and as the apex court is doing now in the 2G case. Such an investigation could have been monitored by the court. He did nothing. It is possible that he knew that Raja was not just “a Union minister” but one who had the courage to defy the Prime Minister too and decide on changing the rules in his ministry.

Justice Balakrishnan has refused to act, in defence of the majesty of the law and the courts on other occasions as well. He sought to brush aside documents showing wrongdoing by Justice P D Dinakaran and did all that was possible to have him elevated to the Supreme Court. He refused to see the truth, as presented by a committee of judges, on the infamous Provident Fund scam involving high court judges in Uttar Pradesh. Justice Gokhale, incidentally, was one of the judges who investigated the scam and reported to Justice Balakrishnan. The former CJI did not see something rotten involving a particular judge in Chandigarh despite the evidence. As Chief Justice of India he refused to part with information — as to whether judges in the Supreme Court had filed their assets’ statements — under the RTI.

Justice Balakrishnan, as Chief Justice of India, instructed the registry of the apex court to turn a litigant before the Delhi High Court against the order by the Chief Information Commissioner that the information whether judges had filed their assets’ statement be disclosed. When the Delhi High Court ordered in favour of the CIC, Justice Balakrishnan had the apex court file an appeal. And when the appeal too was disposed of by a Full Bench of the Delhi High Court, Justice Balakrishnan ordered the Registrar General of the Supreme Court of India to file a Special Leave Petition against the order of the Delhi High Court before the Supreme Court of India.

The fact is that while abdicating his duty when it came to protecting the majesty of law and courts in case of Raja, Justice Balakrishnan did act with promptness when it came to achieving the contrary. No wonder that he said what he did on December 8, 2010; that he did not know that the minister involved was Raja. But then, he seemed to have presumed as much impunity as he had until May 2010! Justice Gokhale’s access to the records in the CJI’s office, as much as his own interest in clearing the air of the “erroneous impression” about his role in the matter has now brought to light the truth that Balakrishnan knew Raja was the minister allegedly involved as early as in July 2009. And yet, on December 8, 2010, the former Chief Justice of India specifically denied any knowledge of this.

It is not possible to reverse all that had happened. But then, we, the people of India, have the right to have a man of integrity and standing at the helm of the NHRC. Past conduct may not be a ground for the removal of a member or the chairman, according to the provisions of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. But moral principles certainly have a mightier force. In any case, we came to know that Justice Balakrishnan’s statement on December 8, 2010 (that the identity of the minister was not disclosed to him), was not the truth only when Justice Gokhale presented his own case with documents, and the least he can do now is to vacate his office at the NHRC.All that can be done now and will necessarily have to be done is to have him out of the National Human Rights Commission

About the author: V Krishna Ananth is a practising lawyer in the Madras High Court.

Ex-CJI’s 2008 doctorate raises ethical questions

By Express News Service
17 Dec 2010

THIRUVANATHAPURAM: Close on the heels of allegations levelled by the Supreme Court judge Justice H L Gokhale against former Chief Justice of India Justice K G Balakrishnan, the latter's acceptance of an LLD from the Kerala University in 2008 is also becoming a controversy. K G Balakrishnan, on the invitation of the Kerala University, had received a doctorate in July, 2008.

At that time the controversy about the appointment of assistants in the University had reached its peak. Then the Lok Ayuktha had been considering the case which was later disposed against the University.

"It was not a good decision. I myself had pointed out the impropriety of the Chief Justice receiving an LLD from a University which was in news for all the wrong reasons. The recent report of M Sukumaran committee underlines our apprehensions," P Parameswaran, director, Bharatiya Vichara Kendram, said. P Parameswaran was among the few who had pointed out the ethical issues in K G Balakrishnan receiving the doctorate then itself.

In a letter sent on June 16, 2008, to the Chief Justice, P Parameswaran warned that the decision of the University seemed to be malafide. "The University has lost the confidence of most of the people following the recent allegations of corruption and malpractices. The people believe that political interests were superior to merit in the appointment of assistants. The case may finally reach the Supreme Court which is headed by you,'' said Parameswaran in the letter. "In fact, I had talked to Justice Krishna Iyer then and asked him to apprise the CJI about the situation. I am not sure what happened after that," Parameswaran told Express.

However, there was no reply to Parameswaran's letter. Justice Balakrishnan, while receiving the doctorate, had praised the functioning of Kerala University.

When the Lok Ayuktha and the High Court-appointed committee found that the Vice Chancellor, ProVice Chancellor and the Syndicate had misused their positions to conduct appointments through unfair means, the act of K G Balakrishnan turned out to be unethical though there was nothing technically wrong in his action.