The Supreme Court on Monday sought response of the Rajya Sabha-appointed panel on Sikkim High Court Chief Justice P D Dinakaran's allegations that the committee has exceeded its jurisdiction in probing charges of judicial misconduct and corruption against him.
A vacation bench of justices G S Singhvi and C K Prasad issued notice to the panel after Dinakaran through counsel Romy Chacko alleged that the fresh charges were "ultra vires" as they went beyond the original charges which was initially adopted by the Rajya Sabha motion.
The apex court had on April 29 stayed the probe by the panel after Dinakaran expressed apprehension of a biased inquiry by it in view of senior advocate P P Rao being one its members. It had asked the committee headed by Justice Aftab Alam of the Supreme Court to respond to Dinakaran's plea that Rao should quit the panel.
Dinakaran in his writ petition has submitted that the committee cannot go beyond the charges framed at the time of the motion passed by Rajya Sabha to investigate the allegations. He cited Section 3 of the Judges Inquiry Act that once the motion is admitted in Parliament to investigate into the grounds for removal, the panel has to confine itself to the list of charges and materials placed before the House.
"But in the case of Dinakaran the charges were altered by the panel and additional charges were framed, it was contended. Hence it should be quashed," the petition stated. According to Dinakaran, the panel has also acted in violation of Articles 121 of the Constitution as even Parliament cannot discuss about a judge's action except with regard to his/her discharge of judicial duties.
But in the case of Dinakaran the panel was examining even allegations of alleged encroachment of lands by his distant relatives, it said. It was also alleged that committee unilaterally advanced a scheduled hearing of April 25 to April 24 and rejected Dinakaran's plea for recusal without even giving him an opportunity to be heard.
"Hence any inquiry will be ultravires," the petition stated. The apex court while issuing notice posted the matter for further hearing to Wednesday. Justice Dinakaran is also facing charges of having five Tamil Nadu Housing Board plots in the name of his wife and two daughters, benami transactions, acquiring and possessing agricultural holdings beyond the ceiling fixed by the TN Land Reforms Act 1961, destruction of evidence, undervaluation of sale agreements, evasion of stamp duty and illegal constructions.
Justice Dinakaran has also been accused of resorting to irregular and dishonest administrative actions by fixing rosters of judges to facilitate dishonest judicial decisions while he was the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court.
Earlier, senior counsel and former Additional Solicitor General Amrendra Saran, appearing for Dinakaran, sought senior advocate P P Rao's withdrawal from the three-member panel on the ground that he was biased against the judge.
Saran read out in the court the purported reply of Rao admitting that he was part of the resolution passed in November 2009 under the aegis of the Bar Association of India wherein the then Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan was asked not to elevate Dinakaran, in view of the charges.
He also said Rao was part of the delegation which subsequently met the Chief Justice and made a representation opposing Dinakaran's elevation. Besides Justice Alam and Rao, the third member of the committee is Karnataka High Court Chief Justice J S Khehar.
The judge has contended that the Upper House panel's decision rejecting his plea for Rao's withdrawal was in violation of the principles of natural justice.
"The impugned order passed by the Judges' Inquiry Committee allowing a biased member to continue to serve as a member of the committee is hit by the principles of natural justice and, hence, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution," he has said.
The charges against Dinakaran, who is due to retire on May 9, 2012, were levelled when he was Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court. He was subsequently transferred to the Sikkim High Court.