New Delhi, Aug 26: The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the central government on a PIL by NGO Common Cause seeking direction for removal of Justice K.G. Balakrishnan as NHRC chief for his alleged acts of misbehaviour during his tenure as the chief justice of India.
A bench of Justice B.S.Chauhan and Justice S.A. Bobde, while issuing notice – returnable in three weeks, asked Solicitor General Mohan Prasaran to appear for the government in the next hearing of the matter.
Common Cause has sought direction to the government that it should make a reference to the apex court under Section 5(2) of the Protection of Human Rights Act for holding an inquiry against Justice Balakrishnan for his alleged acts of misbehaviour as the country’s top judge.
The PIL has contested the government stand that acts of misbehaviour being alleged against Justice Balakrishnan pertained to his tenure as the chief justice of India (CJI) and the same could not be read to seek his removal as the head of the national human rights body.
In its Jan 29 reply to a representation by Common Cause, citing 1992 apex court judgment, the government said that the misbehaviour of a person as a high court judge can form the basis of his removal even after his elevation to the Supreme Court “as elevation is an elongation of the judicial functions with the same judicial fervour”.
However, the same justification, it said, does not hold good in the case of Justice Balakrishnan because his appointment as chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) upon his retirement as CJI was not an elongation of judicial functions.
The functions of the Commission include inquiring, intervening, reviewing etc. “the violations of human rights and to study and spread human rights literacy among various sections of the society and these are not an elongation of the judicial functions”, it maintained.
Assailing the government stand, counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, told the court that despite an overwhelming evidence against Justice Balakrishna’s alleged acts of “grave misbehaviour”, the government has refused to begin the process of his removal as NHRC chief by making a reference to the apex court to conduct an inquiry into the allegations.
Common Cause, in its PIL, has alleged that during the tenure of Justice Balakrishnan in the apex court, his close relatives including his daughters and sons-in-laws acquired assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.
The NGO has also alleged that ‘benami (proxy)’ properties were purchased in the name of his former aide M. Kannabiran.