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SC quashes allotment of plot to Calcutta HC ex-judge
S.S. Negi
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, November 19
In a strongly-worded order aimed at enforcing judicial discipline, the Supreme Court today quashed allotment of plot to former Calcutta High Court judge B.P. Banerjee for “misusing” his judicial power to get it from the Chief Minister’s discretionary quota in the Salt Lake Housing Complex 17 years ago.

“The facts, as recited..., speakes for themselves. The facts speak volumes that the learned judge has misused his judicial functions as liveries to obtain personal interest is clearly discernible,” a Bench of Mr Justice S.N. Variava and Mr Justice H.K. Sema said, quashing Justice Banerjee’s allotment made in July 1987. The cost of the plot was over Rs 8 lakh.

Writing the judgement for the Bench, Mr Justice Sema said: “It must be grasped that judicial discipline is self-discipline. The responsibility is self-responsibility. Judicial discipline is an inbuilt mechanism inherent in the system itself.”

“Because of the position that we occupied and the enormous power we wield, no other authority can impose discipline on us. All the more reasons judges exercise self-discipline of high standards. Character of a judge is being tested by the power he wields,” the apex court said, sending down a massage to judges that there was no scope for judicial indiscipline.

“Integrity is the hallmark of judicial discipline, apart from others. It is high time the judiciary must take utmost care to see that the temple of justice does not crack from inside, which will lead to catastrophe in the justice delivery system resulting in the failure of public confidence in it,” the court said.

“Since the issue in the present controversy will have far-reaching impact on the quality of judiciary, we are tempted to put it on record which we thought it to be a good guidance to achieve the purity of the administration of justice,” the court emphasised.

Disapproving the conduct of Justice Banerjee, the apex court said: “He has misused his divine judicial duty as liveries to accomplish his personal ends. He has betrayed the trust reposed in him by the people. To say the least, this is bad. The matter could have been different if the judge got allotment from the CM’s quota simpliciter like any other citizen.”

“But his action was beyond the ‘condonable limits’ and the plot would vest with the government, the court said, adding that Justice Banerjee “shall not be allowed to bid in the auction of the plot.”

Former Chief Minister Jyoti Basu had passed the order of allotting a plot of land in the Salt Lake City in favour of Justice Banerjee from his discretionary quota on July 7, 1987, and he had heard a case challenging the allotments on the same day by keeping the issue of his being a beneficiary close to him, the court observed.

The court said though like any other organ of the state, judiciary was also manned by humans “but its function is distinctly different from other organs of the State - in a sense its function is divine...”

“Because of the power he wields, a judge is being judged with more stricter standards than others. Judiciary is the repository of public faith. It is the trustee of the people and their last hope. After every knock at all the doors the failed people approach it as the last resort. It is the only temple worshipped by every citizen of this nation, regardless of religion, caste, sex or place of birth,” the court said, cautioning the judicial officers to guard against this trust.

The matter was brought before the Supreme Court in an appeal against the high court order by Tarak Singh, a Trinamool Congress corporator, seeking quashing of all 24 allotments made by the Chief Minister from his discretionary quota to some VIP.

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