Over two months after the central government sent back the Supreme Court collegium’s recommendation to transfer Karnataka High Court Judge K L Manjunath to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, a group of Lok Sabha MPs has started a signature campaign to initiate impeachment proceedings against him.
It is learnt that the four Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MPs and some others have already signed the notice of motion for presenting an address to the President under Article 217 read with Article 124 (4) of the Constitution for Justice Manjunath’s removal for “proven misbehaviour”.
“Yes, we have started the signature campaign and are very hopeful that we will receive the required support from other parties, particularly those parties that advocate probity and honesty. We are in touch with MPs of many parties and the response is encouraging,” said AAP MP from Patiala Dharam Vira Gandhi.
The other three AAP MPs who have signed the petition are Bhagwant Mann, Sadhu Singh and Harinder Singh Khalsa.
Among the charges that the MPs have levelled against Manjunath are: possession of “wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income”, hearing and deciding a petition in favour of a housing society in which his daughter owned a plot, and failing to declare his assets in violation of the Full Court Resolution of 1997.
The petition, a copy of which has been accessed by The Indian Express, alleges that Manjunath, who was elevated as additional judge in 2000 and a permanent judge in 2001, “abused his position to amass several movable and immovable properties worth crores of rupees, disproportionate to his known sources of income”.
Property registration deeds and several other documents have been attached as annexures to support the allegation that Manjunath acquired several properties in the name of his daughter, wife and mother-in-law. The MPs have also accused him of hearing and deciding a petition involving a housing society “with clear conflict of interest”.
An MP who has signed the impeachment motion said it would be presented to the President before the winter session of Parliament, which is likely to begin in the third week of November.
In July this year, citing a strongly-worded adverse note by a senior Supreme Court Judge against Manjunath, the Centre had sent the recommendation regarding Manjunath back to the SC collegium for reconsideration. As first reported by The Indian Express, the collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India R M Lodha, thereafter didn’t reiterate its recommendation.
Incidentally, the previous two attempts by Parliament to impeach sitting members of higher judiciary — Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Sen (now retired) and Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court P D Dinakaran (now retired) — came a cropper after both resigned from their respective posts before the impeachment motions against them could be taken to their logical conclusion.