The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the President to take a decision on a complaint filed before her against the National Human Rights Commission Chairman and former Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan regarding his alleged misconduct during his tenure as a judge in the apex court.
The apex court refused to direct the Centre to recommend a Presidential reference for the removal of Balakrishnan as the chairman of the NHRC.
A bench of justices B S Chauhan and J S Khehar said if there is any truth in the allegations, then it is for the President to make a reference to the Supreme Court, on the advice of Council of Ministers, for inquiry against the former CJI.
"In the peculiar facts noticed hereinabove, we are satisfied that the instant petition deserves to be disposed of by requesting the competent authority to take a decision on the communication dated April 4 2011 (addressed by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms, to the President of India)," stated the bench.
"If the allegations, in the aforesaid determination, are found to be unworthy of any further action, the petitioner shall be informed accordingly. Alternatively, the President of India, based on the advice of the Council of Ministers, may proceed with the matter in accordance with the mandate of Section 5(2) of the 1993 Act," the bench said.
The court passed the order on a PIL by civil society Common Cause, which had sought directions from the court to the government to make a Presidential reference to the apex court for removal of Balakrishnan as the chairman of NHRC
The NGO had alleged that the former CJI and his relatives amassed wealth far exceeding their legal income during Balakrishnan's tenure as an apex court judge.
Interpreting the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the bench said that it is for the President to take a decision on the reference for the removal of the Chairman.
"We have given our thoughtful consideration to the prayer made in the instant petition. It is not possible for us to accept the prayer made at the hands of the petitioner for the simple reason that the first step contemplated under Section 5(2) of the Act is the satisfaction of the President of India. It is only upon the satisfaction of the President, that a reference can be made to the Supreme Court for holding an enquiry," the bench said.
The bench noted down all the allegations levelled against Balakrishanan which includes owning benami properties in the names of his relatives and his former aide, for approving evasive and false replies on declaration of assets by apex court judges and resisting attempts to stop the elevation of Justice P D Dinakaran to the Supreme Court.
Justice Balakrishnan had been elevated as a Supreme Court judge in June 2000 and was appointed the Chief Justice of India on January 14, 2007. He retired on May 12, 2010, after which he was appointed NHRC chairman.
The NGO had also sought directions to the ministry of home affairs for making a reference to the apex court under the Human Rights Act to look into the allegations of "misbehaviour" against Justice Balakrishnan.
The court had reserved its verdict on the NGO's plea on May 7.
A provision under the Human Rights Act says the NHRC chairperson or its members cannot be removed from their offices unless the President of India orders it on the ground of proved misbehaviour, ascertained by the Supreme Court after an inquiry on the President's reference for the probe.
Common Cause, in its petition, had annexed media reports as documents to buttress its allegations that 'benami' properties were acquired by Balakrishnan's family members during his tenure in the Supreme Court.
During the hearing in the case, the Centre had told the apex court that it is probing into the allegations that Balakrishnan and his relatives had amassed disproportionate assets during his tenure as a judge and had submitted a probe status report to it in a sealed envelope.