The apex court has asked a competent authority to look into allegations of misconduct against the former CJI even though it has refused to direct the government to recommend a presidential reference to remove justice Balakrishnan as NHRC chairman
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the competent authority of the Centre to look into the allegation of judicial misconduct against the former chief justice of India and current National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairman Konakuppakatil Gopinathan Balakrishnan (KG Balakrishnan) for his alleged misconduct during his tenure as a judge in the apex court.
The court passed the order on a PIL (public interest litigation) by non-government organisation (NGO) Common Cause, which had sought directions from the court to the government to make a presidential reference to the apex court for removal of former CJI Balakrishnan as the chairman of NHRC.
The NGO had alleged that the ex-CJI and his relatives amassed wealth far exceeding their legal income during Justice Balakrishnan's tenure as an apex court judge.
According to a PTI report, a bench of justices BS Chauhan and JS Khehar said if there is any truth in the allegations, then it is for the president to make a reference to the Supreme Court, on the advice of council of ministers, for inquiry against the former CJI.
The Supreme Court, however, refused to direct the Centre to recommend a presidential reference to remove him from NHRC.
Earlier, former chief justice JS Verma, former apex court Judge VR Krishna Iyer, noted jurist Fali S Nariman, former member of NHRC Sudarshan Agrawal and prominent activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan had called for justice Balakrishnan to step down from the chairmanship of the NHRC pending an inquiry into the matter.
Justice HL Gokhale of the Supreme Court also had accused justice Balakrishnan of misrepresenting facts to conceal sacked telecom minister A Raja's attempt to influence Justice R Reghupathy of the Madras High Court, on behalf of two murder accused known to the DMK leader.
Justice Balakrishnan had been elevated as a Supreme Court judge in June 2000 and was appointed the Chief Justice of India on 14 January 2007. He retired on 12 May 2010 after which he was appointed NHRC chairman.
The NGO had also sought directions to the ministry of home affairs (MHA) for making a reference to the apex court under the Human Rights Act to look into the allegations of 'misbehaviour' against justice Balakrishnan. The court had reserved its verdict on the NGO's plea on 7th May.
A provision under the Human Rights Act says the NHRC chairperson or its members cannot be removed from their offices unless the President of India orders it on the ground of proved misbehaviour, ascertained by the Supreme Court after an inquiry on the president's reference for the probe.
Common Cause, in its petition, had annexed media reports as documents to buttress its allegations that 'benami' properties were acquired by justice Balakrishnan's kin during his tenure in the Supreme Court.
On an earlier date of hearing, the Centre had informed the apex court that it is probing into the allegations that justice Balakrishnan and his relatives had amassed disproportionate assets during his tenure as a judge and had submitted a probe status report to it in a sealed envelop.
The court after going through the report had asked the government to tell it as to what further action it intended to take on the allegations against the former CJI and appraise it about it.
According to media reports, justice Balakrishnan's son-in-law and Indian Youth Congress leader PV Srinijan, who did not have any land four years ago, is now the owner of property worth hundreds of thousands of rupees.
During his tenure as Chief Justice of India, he also tried to exempt the Office of the chief justice of India from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Justice Balakrishnan ordered the Supreme Court registry to file an appeal before the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court judgement making the office of the CJI amenable to the RTI act. He has also spoken about the need for amending the RTI act in the interests of the right to privacy.
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