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Justice Bhalla’s appointment
Kalam wants case review
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 10
Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj today tried to downplay the controversy over the appointment of Justice Jagdish Bhalla as Chief Justice of Kerala High Court even as President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam returned the file of his case to the Prime Minister for more clarifications in the wake of allegations that his wife was involved in buying a plot in Noida from the land mafia at throwaway prices.

Terming the clarification sought by Dr Kalam as a part of the “consultation” process, the Law Minister said the process in Justice Bhalla’s appointment was on and it was not yet over. He was talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a seminar which was also attended by the Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan.

However, the CJI, who heads the Supreme Court Collegium that initiates the process of appointment of judges, refused to comment on the issue.

When asked for the stand of the government on queries sought by the President, the Law Minister refused to say anything further.

The name of Justice Bhalla, a judge of the Allahabad High Court, was recommended for appointment as Chief Justice of Kerala High Court by the Collegium, headed by former CJI Y.K. Sabharwal, who demitted office on January 14.

A day before his retirement, Justice Sabharwal in an interaction with the media had justified the recommendation of Justice Bhalla’s name, clarifying that after an inquiry, nothing unusual was found in the purchase of the plot by his wife. The persons from whom she had bought it had shown highly “inflated” rates for their other plots of land later in the same area in a bid to get more compensation from the government which had proposed to acquire their land.

The controversy had taken a new dimension with Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, reportedly writing a letter to the Law Minister on the issue.

He had written the letter after receiving a communication from former Law Minister and senior advocate Shanti Bhushan sent on behalf of a private organisation, Judicial Accountability Committee of eminent jurists.

The committee had also written similar letters on the issue to Dr Kalam, Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The allegations against Justice Bhalla was that his wife Ms Renu Bhalla had bought a plot measuring 7,200 sq meters in Noida for Rs 5 lakh in 2005 while the prevalent market rate for the land there was estimated to be Rs 7 crore.

But former CJI Sabharwal had brushed aside the allegations, saying though he did not know Justice Bhalla personally and had the chance to meet him once or twice in some official functions, the matter was inquired into after it appeared in the media and no impropriety was established against him.

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