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SC Judge contradicts former CJI on Raja issue
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 14
The alleged attempt by A Raja to influence a Madras High Court Judge in June last when he was Telecom Minister sparked off another major controversy today, with Supreme Court Judge HL Gokhale disputing then Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan’s reported contention that he was not aware of the fact that the minister in question was Raja.

On December 8, Justice Balakrishnan, who is now Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, had told reporters that he had not received any letter from the HC Judge, Justice R Regupathi. Also, the then HC Chief Justice Gokhale had not mentioned the name of Raja in his communication, the former CJI had maintained.

In an unusual move, Justice Gokhale, who has since been elevated to the SC, today issued a press release: “The reported statement of the former CJI gives an erroneous impression about my role in the matter. Hence, it became necessary for me to verify the facts from the record with the CJI’s office. Thereafter, I am releasing this press note.”

Justice Gokhale maintained that he had attached a copy of Justice Regupathi’s letter dated July 2, 2009, which mentioned the name of Raja along with his own letter dated July 5, 2009, mentioning the attempt. The then CJI had “in fact acknowledged” the same in a letter dated August 8, 2009.

He quoted the relevant portion of the letter of then CJI Balakrishnan: “Vide letter dated 5th July, 2009, you have forwarded to me a detailed letter/report dated 2nd July, 2009 of Justice R Regupathi explaining the actual state of affairs concerning the alleged misconduct of a Union Minister reported in the media.”

Justice Gokhale said: “The former CJI has stated in his press conference that in my letter I did not mention the name of any Union Minister having talked to Justice Regupathi over the phone to influence him... I may point out that Justice Regupathi’s letter was already with him and in the second paragraph thereof Justice Regupathi had specifically mentioned the name of Minister Raja.” Justice Gokhale also reproduced this second paragraph which read: “On 12.6.2009, at about 2 pm during lunch recess, while I was in the Chamber, HC, Madras, my office assistant Mujibir Ali informed me that Chandramohan, Chairman, Bar Council of Tamil Nadu, is waiting and seeking for an appointment to meet me and, immediately I allowed him to come.”

“To start with, he discussed about the general subject on advocates and so proceeding, he said that two persons, who are father and son/accused in a criminal case, are family friends of a Union Minister by name Raja, and that the petition filed by them for anticipatory bail must be considered favourably. Simultaneously, he handed over his mobile phone by saying that the Union Minister is on the line to have a talk with me. Right away, I discouraged such conduct of Chandramohan and told him that the case would be disposed of in accordance with law, if listed before me.”

Justice Gokhale said the then CJI had also informed him about a memorandum sent by a large number of MPs to the Prime Minister. Reacting to Justice Gokhale’s release, Justice Balakrishnan said he had only expressed his inability to take any action on the basis of a letter written by Justice Regupathi to the HC CJ, which had mentioned the name of Raja. The former CJI insisted that Justice Gokhale had not mentioned the name of Raja in his letter.

However, Justice Gokhale has in his release explained this point, stating that he had no personal knowledge about the incident and the observations in his reply were “in conformity with the contents of Justice Regupathi’s letter”.





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