The Supreme Court Thursday was told that the Judges Inquiry Committee (JIC) probing charges of corruption, land grabbing and misconduct against Sikkim High Court Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran has modified the charges in the notice of the motion moved in the Rajya Sabha seeking his impeachment and removal.
Senior counsel U.U. Lalit, appearing for the probe panel, told a bench of Justice G.S.Singhvi and Justice Chandramauli Kumar Prasad: ‘I must squarely admit that there are improvements on the charges (contained in the notice of motion) and the JIC is of the view that it can’t go into the charges strictly within the framework of the material made available to it.’
Lalit said this while justifying JIC conducting investigation before the framing of the charges. Under the Judges (Inquiry) Act, the JIC is first called to frame definite charges and then hold investigations into them.
The inquiry panel comprising apex court judge Justice Aftab Alam, Karnataka High Court Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and senior counsel P.P.Rao was set up by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari Dec 15, 2009, after 75 members of parliament’s upper house moved a notice seeking impeachment and removal of Dinakaran.
Lalit’s statement assumes significance as Dinakaran has contended that under Judges (Inquiry) Act 1968, the JIC could not go beyond the charges contained in the notice of motion of impeachment. The JIC in its notice to Justice has listed 14 charges against him, some of which, according to Dinakaran, beyond the scope of the notice of motion sent to JIC by Rajya Sabha.
The submission came in the course of the hearing of a petition by Dinakaran that the presence of Rao on the panel was prejudicial to his interest as the latter has opposed his elevation as the judge of the apex court.
Earlier in the course of the hearing Thursday, taking note of the 16 months time taken by Dinakaran in challenging the presence of Rao on the JIC, Justice Prasad said mockingly: ‘Today you take objection and you are out of the (JIC and impeachment) net.’
Justice Prasad’s observation came after Lalit contended raising objections at this stage was aimed to frustrate the JIC proceedings as it is mandated to complete its task and submit the report in three months time. The court was told that JIC’s composition was changed twice but all through Rao was a member since it was first created in January 2010.
In an apparent indication that it was taking Dinakaran’s contention with a pinch of salt, Justice Singhvi said: ‘We are not dealing with an ordinary mind. He (Dinakaran) is a trained legal mind.’
In another indication that the contention was not all that innocent, Justice Singhvi said that Dinakaran knew that the resolution was drafted by Rao, he (Rao) subscribed to the views expressed therein and even delivered a speech and participated in the delegation that met the then Chief Justice K.G.Balakrishnan opposing Dinakaran’s elevation.
The notice of motion seeking Justice Dinakaran’s impeachment has charged him with possessing wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income, acquisition of five housing board plots in favour of his wife and two daughters, benami (proxy) transactions, possession of agricultural holdings in excess of the ceiling limit, illegal encroachment of public property ‘to deprive Dalits and poor of their right to livelihood’, and ‘violation of human rights of Dalits and the poor’.
Besides this he was accused of ‘destruction of evidence during official inquiry, repeated under-evaluation of properties’ and illegal construction. The notice also charges him with ‘misuse of official position to unlawfully secure property and to facilitate other illegal acts for personal gain’. He was also charged on interfering in the dispensation of justice.