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The reluctance of the Supreme Court of India to investigate its brethren is infamous. The petition filed by NGO Common Cause seeking probe into the disproportionate assets amassed by the relatives of former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan finally came up for hearing today, one and half years after it was last heard.
Unfortunately, one of the main prayers in the petition seeking removal of the former CJI from the post of Chairperson of NHRC had become infructuous. The case was last heard on February 7, 2014 when the Supreme Court had directed that the matter be listed for final hearing on “Tuesday.” That Tuesday did arrive, albeit a bit late. Justice Balakrishnan had by then retired from his NHRC office.
Despite all these, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner NGO today, pressed for the court to direct the CBI to register a preliminary case contending that all documentary evidence clearly prove disproportionate assets amassed by his relatives. He did not hide his disappointment over the late listing of the petition despite him mentioning the matter “two to three” times.
“This petition was mentioned by me two or three times but it never came to be listed. Now it has been listed after his retirement (from the post of NHRC Chairperson). So, the first prayer in the petition has been rendered infructuous.”
Bhushan then proceeded to argue on the details of the assets amassed by the relatives of Justice Balakrishnan.
“The Income Tax Department had clearly found that his daughter, son- in-law and brother could not explain the source by which 21 properties were purchased by them. They were found to be purchased using black money. At this stage, what your lordships can do is direct the CBI to register a preliminary complaint.”
Bhushan also took a dig at the Supreme Court, which in the recent past had refused to entertain cases against judges.
“Unfortunately, an impression is growing that the judiciary has ceased to be accountable. There is this belief that one cannot do anything against a judge, however brazenly corrupt he or she is. This will erode the public faith in the judiciary and will have serious consequences.”
Senior Advocate Rana Mukherjee appearing for the Centre then submitted that he cannot concede on whether the CBI should register a complaint straightaway or not. “The IT Department has also already conducted some investigation. I cannot concede anything without instructions.”
The Division Bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and PC Pant said that they will first consider the status of Income Tax Department’s inquiry/ action with regard to the disproportionate assets before going into other issues.
The Supreme Court then directed the Attorney General to assist Bench and posted the matter for November 17.