PIL against ex-CJI has raised ‘serious’ issues: SC

The court’s observation came as advocate Prashant Bhushan,appearing for the NGO.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Published:October 18, 2013 2:08 am

Even as the government put its weight behind the clean chit to former Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan and members of his family after an income tax inquiry,the Supreme Court Thursday noted that the PIL demanding his removal as NHRC chairperson had raised “serious” issues and so it required a detailed assessment.

A Bench of Justices B S Chauhan and S A Bobde said it wanted to properly go through all the relevant facts and legal issues relating to the case before taking a final call on the petition filed by NGO Common Cause.

“We are working in a dual capacity. Our problem is to also legally examine whether the inquiry officer can ask the delinquent to their jurisdiction… It is a serious issue and so we want to first read everything well,” observed the Bench while fixing the matter for final hearing on October 30. The court’s observation came as advocate Prashant Bhushan,appearing for the NGO,raised the question whether a reference ought to have been made by the government through the Supreme Court for conducting an inquiry against Balakrishnan.

The Bench,however,underlined that there were diverse views of the apex court on the point whether an inquiry under the NHRC Act could be ordered into alleged “misbehaviour” of a CJI while in the judicial office.

“If we go by the majority view (in Justice Ramaswami’s case),we have no option but to say that it (NHRC chairperson’s post) is not an elongation of the judicial officer of the CJI. The real question therefore is if continuance in the same office or an elongation of the same office (of a SC judge) was necessary for instituting proceedings (under NHRC Act),” said the Bench.

Bhushan,however,pointed out that the government’s stand on the issue was “absurd” as they claimed no action under NHRC Act could be taken against Balakrishnan for his alleged misconduct during his tenure as the CJI.

“Assuming a CJI amasses illegal wealth during his stint in the court and then becomes the NHRC chairperson,as per the government,he can neither be removed nor can be inquired into. This argument is absurd also because only a former CJI can become the NHRC chairperson,” said Bhushan,adding one of the four charges levelled against Balakrishnan related to his tenure with the NHRC.

Appearing for the government,Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran repeatedly brought to the notice of the court that the tax inquiry against the former CJI had failed to produce any incriminating evidence to link their monetary transactions to cases pending in courts.

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