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Judge’s integrity in question
Proposed elevation of Karnataka CJ to SC draws ire of senior advocates
R Sedhuraman
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, September 14
In an unprecedented move five senior advocates of the Supreme Court led by Fali S Nariman have sought an inquiry into the ‘integrity’ of the Karnataka Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran and questioned his proposed elevation to the apex court.

Besides Fali Nariman, the other senior advocates who have called for an inquiry include Anil Divan, Ram Jethmalani and Shanti Bhushan. The advocates have shot off separate letters to the President of India, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India. The advocates, all members of the Committee on Juidicial Accountability, have questioned the wisdom of elevating a judge whose integrity has been called into question.

The signatories have urged the President of India and the PM to get an inquiry conducted into the allegations levelled against the Chief Justice in question. They have also urged the President to delay the appointment pending the inquiry. They also called on the Chief Justice of India , who assured that he would look into the complaint.

Claiming to have received extremely ‘disturbing reports’ from reliable sources, the senior advocates have urged the President to delay the appointment pending the inquiry. All three letters, copies of which are available with The Tribune, are dated September 8, 2009. On the Karnataka CJ, the advocates wrote to the President, “We are enclosing a copy of the complaint by several responsible members of the Tamil Nadu Bar to the collegium of the Supreme Court against his elevation, which details several instances indicating lack of integrity. We would, therefore, like you to inquire into it and get it investigated before his appointment is notified. You will agree that the consequences will be far more serious if a person lacking integrity is appointed as a Supreme Court Judge than delaying the appointment of a person against whom the charges may not be eventually established.”

Former Law Minister Ram Jethmalani has signed only the letter addressed to the CJI in which the name of Justice Dinakaran does not figure. Senior advocates Prashant Bhushan and Kamini Jaiswal also put their signatures to the complaints addressed to the President and the PM.

A committee member said that of the five Chief Justices proposed to be elevated to the apex court three, including Justice Tirath Singh Thakur of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, had impeccable record. There were some unsubstantiated allegations against another Chief Justice on the list, but the senior advocates did not want to name him in the absence of any concrete evidence against him. At a meeting held on August 26, the SC collegium headed by the CJI had cleared five names for elevation as SC judges. They are Chief Justices Ananga Kumar Patnaik of Madhya Pradesh High Court, TS Thakur of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Surinder Singh Nijjar of the Calcutta High Court, KS Radhakrishnan of the Gujarat High Court and PD Dinakaran of the Karnataka High Court.

The President was expected to formally appoint them by the end of this month, following clearances by the Law Ministry and the Prime Minister. The complaint by the committee is now expected to delay the appointments, at least of the CJ in question.The latest complaint is not the lone controversy that has cast a shadow on the higher judiciary. Impeachment proceedings are pending against Calcutta HC judge Soumitra Sen on the recommendations of the CJI for judicial misconduct, while investigations are still on in the reported delivery of Rs 15 lakh in cash to a judge of the Punjab and Haryana HC. The dirt kicked up over the initial refusal of SC judges to make their assets public is also yet to settle down, with speculation rife over the possibility of SC filing a petition in the Delhi HC, seeking revision of a single judge’s verdict. The HC had directed to provide asset details sought by an applicant under the Right to Information Act.



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