The Chief Justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, has had a rather controversial three years in office. In this time, several allegations of corruption and judicial impropriety have been levelled against senior judges. Here, the honourable justice addresses some of these issues in an interview to Chandrani Banerjee:
How do you respond to the allegations of corruption against judges during your tenure?
It is not as if controversies have surfaced in the judiciary now. There were controversies earlier too: take the case of Justice Ramaswamy. It is just that the media is now very powerful and such issues are covered in great detail.
It is said you met Union law minister Veerappa Moily on the Justice Dinakaran land grab case and held the view that no action be taken against him. Is this true?
I’ve never met the Union law minister over the Dinakaran issue. How can I say there be no action against a particular person? Moreover, the impeachment process is on. Therefore, it is inappropriate to comment.
In the case of Punjab and Haryana High Court judge Nirmal Yadav, it is said that you didn’t allow the CBI to initiate an investigation against her.
The CBI conducted an inquiry. The controversy is about the closure report. Some lawyers in Chandigarh said that I did not allow the CBI to prosecute Justice Nirmal Yadav. This is incorrect. Going by Justice Ramaswamy’s case, the CBI should seek permission from the President of India to prosecute a judge. If the permission is given, then the Chief Justice of India is consulted. In Justice Yadav’s case, the CBI did not seek any such permission, hence the president didn’t consult me. If the CBI really wanted to prosecute, it should have submitted a report to the law ministry which would have put it to the president.
According to the judicial standards and accountability bill, the final decision on tainted judges will be taken by the government. Do you think this will help bring in more transparency?
I have not seen the complete bill. I do not know in what shape it will ultimately be passed by Parliament. But I’m sure about one thing: Parliament will not pass any act that will affect the independence of the judiciary.
Do you think the chief justice should be exempt from RTI?
The office of the chief justice is very much covered under RTI. The information that can be shared with the public is shared by the registrar’s office of the Supreme Court. But things like appointment of judges cannot be divulged to the public.
Under the proposed national judicial commission, the government wants to involve representatives from the PMO and parliamentarians in the appointment of judges to high courts and the Supreme Court. Do you think this is a good idea?
The concept has been around for several years. I don’t think anything concrete has been done. In most countries there is a commission for appointments.
A major corruption issue that surfaced in your time is the PF scam. Allegedly several sitting judges were involved in it....
Though this matter is sub-judice, I think I can say the case does not directly involve the judiciary. The basic allegation was that many spurious claims were made and false bills presented to the treasury which were passed. Actually there were no deposits in the treasury against those bills. And also withdrawals of Rs 3-5 lakh were made in the names of some Class IV employees. Some of the employees mentioned in the records were false. It is also alleged that one officer (Asthana) who expired recently did these things. This has actually nothing to do with judicial work or the judiciary deciding a case or somebody accepting bribe. There were allegations that Asthana distributed gifts to some of the judges. But these were only allegations.