In The Inquiry Committee’s Words...
"Some of your judgements show favouritism which is in the realm of gross judicial impropriety, indiscipline, abuse of office and misbehaviour.”
"The so-called agricultural income shown in the income-tax returns filed by you and your wife are fictitious and untrue.”
"In December 2008, your daughter’s wedding reception was held at the Madras Race Club. The total bill was Rs 98,687. This is still outstanding.”
It is official. The inquiry committee probing charges of alleged misconduct by P.D. Dinakaran has zeroed in on 14 charges against the chief justice of the Sikkim High Court. The three-member committee—comprising Supreme Court judge Aftab Alam, Karnataka High Court Chief Justice J.S. Kehar and senior counsel P.P. Rao—has currently stopped further proceedings since Justice Dinakaran has moved the Supreme Court challenging the functioning of the judges committee. When contacted, Justice Dinakaran’s lawyer Romy Chacko said, “The preliminary investigation has been done improperly. It was done behind the judge’s back.”
Dinakaran’s family home in Arrakonam. (Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah)
However, Outlook has exclusively accessed the committee’s report. The charges against Dinakaran range from possession of assets disproportionate to known sources of income to delivering favourable judgements and obtaining fake loans. A judge in the Madras HC from 1996-2008, Dinakaran became the Karnataka chief justice in August 2008 and was transferred to the Sikkim HC in July 2010 amid much controversy. The 14 charges against him include...
Fenced In Justice Dinakaran’s land in Kaverirajapuram in Tiruvallur, a part of which is said to be encroached upon. (Photograph by Nilotpal Baruah)
- Possession of assets disproportionate to known sources of income: To quote from the charges drawn up by the judges committee, “You, Mr Justice P.D. Dinakaran, do not come from a very wealthy or affluent background. You did not get any significant amount of money or any property worth the name in inheritance from your parents. Before your elevation as a judge of the Madras High Court, as an advocate, your income was quite modest. Your wife, Dr Vinodhini Dinakaran, was a doctor in the central government and not entitled to private practice. She too thus did not have the means to acquire properties. Your father-in-law, James Kuppuswamy, earned Rs 4,722 while mother-in-law M.G. Paripoornam earned Rs 4,100 every month as assistant foreman and schoolteacher respectively. After your elevation as a judge, your income as per income-tax returns would be around Rs 6.5 lakh every year. The so-called agricultural income shown in the returns filed by you and your wife are fictitious and untrue.”
Once he became judge, Justice Dinakaran bought several plots in plush areas of Chennai and Ooty. The I-T and transactions details vis-a-vis these properties are now part of the documentary evidence with the committee. Incidentally, it was the Forum for Judicial Accountability which first exposed some of Justice Dinakaran’s land deals.
- Abuse of judicial authority: According to the committee, Justice Dinakaran and his family travelled to Toronto in August 2004, where they enjoyed the hospitality of one Karunaa Murthy. The documentary evidence with the committee shows that the Pentecostal Mission filed writ petition 39838 in the Madras HC in 2005 seeking to restrain police authorities from interfering with a disputed property. The property was in dispute because Karunaa Murthy’s wife Ananthi was claiming ownership. Then a judge in the Madras HC, Dinakaran ruled in her favour, something the committee deems as amounting to judicial impropriety. “When the matter was listed before you,” the committee notes, “the orders passed on 6.9.2006, 20.9.2006 and 2.11.2007 show favouritism which is in the realm of gross judicial impropriety, indiscipline, abuse of office and misbehaviour of a judge.”
As Madras HC judge, Dinakaran ruled in favour of TN Housing Board where he and his family had interests.
A year earlier, in 2004, Justice Dinakaran, as judge of the Madras HC, delivered a series of judgements favouring the acquisition of land by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board. He dismissed 63 petitions in six judgements challenging the acquisition of land in Sholinganallur village. This, the judges committee notes, was done “notwithstanding the fact that you, your wife and your parents-in-law had applied for and had been allotted (houses) under the scheme and thus had direct material interests. It is noted that you, Justice Dinakaran, had a direct and personal interest because the real beneficiaries of these plots by the Housing Board were your family members.”
In this regard, the committee also lays down the norm: “A judge shall not hear or decide a matter in which a member of his family or a friend is concerned. Judicial propriety warrants that a judge recuse or refrain from hearing or disposing any such matter.”
- Indulging in benami transactions: Justice Dinakaran bought properties in the name of benami companies where he and his relatives had cross-holdings. The charge also pertains to the opening of bank accounts to facilitate payments to Dinakaran and his family. The committee notes: “Accounts opened in the name of M.G. Paripoornam, Raja Rabidev and Jacob Williams (all relatives of the judge) in Bank of Baroda, Santhome, mrc Nagar, Chennai, have been principally opened for the purpose of making advances and gifts to you and your immediate family.”
- Receiving gifts and advances: Dinakaran’s wife received properties from her mother, M.G. Paripoornam, which were shown as land bought by her and gifted to her daughter. But she does not have any source of income that can justify buying such properties. The committee has identified two such properties: residential plot J-81 at Anna Nagar East, Chennai, and two plots of land (hig-ii/43 and hig-ii/44) bought under the Sholinganallur village neighbourhood scheme, phase iii, from the Tamil Nadu Housing Board.
The report notes that investigations revealed that from 2003-2010, the judge, his wife, two daughters and mother-in-law received gifts in cash amounting to Rs 138 lakh.
- Undervaluation of properties: Sale deeds from the department of revenue corroborate that Dinakaran and his family bought properties at an undervalued price to evade stamp duty. The committee in its report says, “The consideration shown in the document of transfer for the property of 4,800 sq ft at residential plot J-81, Anna Nagar East, Chennai, is shown as Rs 90,50,040 only—far below the market value.”
- Taking horticulture loans on false grounds: In 2006, Dinakaran’s brother-in-law J. Williams approached the George Town branch of the Allahabad Bank in Chennai for loans amounting to Rs 81.54 lakh for four companies. The then manager of the branch, K. Athiramilaku, told the committee that the loans were granted on the sole basis that Williams was closely related to Dinakaran. The committee also found out that the loan disbursed under ‘development of commercial horticulture and post-harvest management’ was unlawful.
- Procurement of five plots from the Tamil Nadu Housing Board: The judge used his status to buy five plots worth Rs 56 lakh from the Tamil Nadu Housing Board by inscribing ‘VIP’ on his application. In his admission before the committee, the MD of the housing board, R. Sudalaikannan, said: “I fairly assume that these markings do have material significance in allotment of the plot in so far as obvious irregularities and illegalities were overlooked and the allotment was contrary to rules.”
- Encroachment on government/ public land: Justice Dinakaran owns 233 acres in the Kaverirajapuram village of Tiruvallur district, Tamil Nadu. But it was found that 2.38 acres of Anadhinam land, meant to be given only to the landless poor, was encroached upon in the same village in 2009. The report points out: “The district collector in 2009 confirmed in his inquiry report given to the then cji, K.G. Balakrishnan, that you had encroached the lands in the village Kaverirajapuram village and put up a fence. You, Justice P.D. Dinakaran, tried to intimidate the authorities by speaking to the concerned tahsildar while he was inspecting the properties.”
- Removal of fencing, obstructing public servant on duty and human rights violation: Once the Kaverirajapuram encroachment came to light, Justice Dinakaran, the report says, “caused removal of fence. This amounted to destruction of evidence; the revenue and village authorities tried to prevent such removal. You tried to intimidate.”
- Agriculture holdings beyond ceiling limit: Justice Dinakaran is charged with violation of the land ceiling act. As per Section 5 of the Tamil Nadu Land Reforms Act, a family of five cannot hold more than 15 acres of agricultural land, and as per section 3 (40) of the same act, four acres of dry land is equal to one standard acre. Says the report: “The note submitted by the joint commissioner (land reforms), Villipuram, indicated that the total land holding of you, Mr Justice P.D. Dinakaran, and your wife is 69.83 ordinary acres.... That is in excess of the ceiling limit of 15 standard acres.”
- Abuse of administrative authority: As Karnataka HC chief justice, Justice Dinakaran “exercised” his administrative powers “in a completely arbitrary manner”. Thus, he appointed Divyashree C.M., K.M. Sona and A. Santosh as second division assistants in the high court under the High Court of Karnataka Service Rules, 1973, “even though the appointments of none of these three persons could come under the scope of the provision or any other rule.”
- Violation of building bylaws: The constructions on plot number 27 and 28 on East Park Road, Shenoy Nagar, Chennai, by Justice Dinakaran and his wife are in contravention of the Tamil Nadu town country planning act.
- Failing to file wealth tax returns: The judge has not been paying tax on properties and assets created by him and his beneficiaries. “Despite being in possession of assets, huge balance, urban land and deemed assets,” the report says, “you failed to file wealth tax returns and pay appropriate tax.”
- Non-payment of bills: A bill of Rs 98,867 incurred by the judge on the wedding reception of his daughter at the Madras Race Club remains unpaid. Dinakaran’s lawyer, however, says that his daughter’s husband’s family hosted the reception and as such the matter is between them and the club. That’s swift recovery perhaps, but will the judge have an answer to all the other charges?