Special to Firstpost, By VK Shashikumar, THL Mediagrove
The surprising thing about the chorus of allegations and calls for investigation into the conduct of former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan is that it is coming largely from the judicial community itself.
In an interview to Firstpost, Justice K Sukumaran (1981-91, Kerala and Maharashtra High Court judge) told VK Shashikumar of THL-Mediagrove that it is “a fact that judges are approached by vested interests and attempts made to influence them".
Among other things, Sukumaran says that the Bombay and Madras High Courts also had a few judges of questionable integrity. “When I was a judge in the Bombay High Court, I knew of four judges with questionable integrity. I know that the Madras High Court, one of the courts with high integrity, was destroyed by corruption and its standards fell to despicable lows.”
The following is an edited extract of his conversation with Firstpost on judicial corruption, in general, and why KG Balakrishnan’s own role needs to be investigated.
“Before Balakrishnan became a judge, he has appeared before me as a lawyer. I rate him as an average lawyer," says Sukumaran.
“He was in the sub-judge cadre but he was actually a deputy registrar. It is a well-known fact that he was very close to the Congress party and to the (late) K Karunakaran, Congress Party stalwart in Kerala.
“The hand behind KGB’s rise is that of Karunakaran who skillfully used the Dalit card to get him an entry into the Kerala High Court. At the time, the Chief Justice was K Bhaskaran, and he was close to Karunakaran. The good relationship between the then Chief Minister Karunakaran and the Chief Justice of the Kerala high court was instrumental in KGB’s elevation.
“They realised it would take several years for KGB to rise through the ranks. They wanted to fast-track KGB into the high court. So he was asked to resign. Balakrishnan resigned as deputy registrar and joined the Kerala High Court bar as a lawyer. After serving for one-and-a-half years as a lawyer, KGB was nominated as the High Court judge.
“As it turns out, I retired as a High Court judge, whereas Balakrishnan rose to be the CJI and then the tables were turned when I appeared before him as a lawyer in the Supreme Court.
“Balakrishnan had a clean record as a judge in Kerala and Gujarat. But whispers against him began during his tenure as Chief Justice in the Madras High Court. One thing is certain, and I can say it openly, his brother (the late) KG Bhaskaran exploited his name and position for personal gains.
“I believe Justice Balakrishnan should have been vigilant to ensure that his name or position was not misused by his relatives. I know for sure that Justice Balakrishnan denied his younger brother entry to his official residence in Chennai when he was Chief Justice of Tamil Nadu. But I am told that things changed when he went to Delhi as a Supreme Court judge and subsequently became the CJI."
“It is a fact that judges are approached by vested interests and attempts made to influence them. When I was a judge in the Bombay High Court, I knew of four judges with questionable integrity. I know that the Madras High Court, one of the courts with high integrity, was destroyed by corruption and its standards fell to despicable lows. So this has been a long-standing problem because we are probably the only democracy in the world where the judges appoint other judges. There is no accountability."
“I am pained by the dirt being flung at the judiciary because I have great respect and admiration for its edifice. I have been part of this edifice, part of the judiciary. The integrity and independence of this institution must be safeguarded and this must be a national priority.”