Former Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan, against whom serious charges of corruption were levelled in a Firstpost investigation, should be forced to step down as head of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) if he does not voluntarily resign.
That’s the verdict of another former Chief Justice of India and one of India’s foremost jurists, J. S. Verma, who also served as head of the NHRC.
In an interview to Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN, Justice Verma said:
“I have said it long back and I have no hesitation repeating. He (Balakrishnan) should have demitted long back and if he doesn't do it voluntarily, the government should persuade him to do that, otherwise, proceed to do whatever can be done to see that he demits office.
Justice Verma also said that Balakrishnan’s continuance in office affects the NHRC’s international standing, at a time when it already risks the prospect of seeing its status downgraded.
The allegations against Balakrishnan were brought to light in a series of exposes in Firstpost a fortnight ago (linked below):
1. Was ex-CJI a fixer? Ex-judge says he was approached
2. How ex-CJI was compromised by his political lobbying
3. Register FIR against ex-CJI and relatives, says whistleblower
4. Ex-CJI's brother used his name for personal gain
5. Property details of ex-CJI's family members
In his interview to Karan Thapar, Justice Verma also addressed other aspects relating to judicial accountability – and the question of bringing the higher judiciary under the proposed Lokpal Bill.
In particular, on the question of investigation of allegations against judges, Justice Verma acknowledged that his 1993 Supreme Court judgment, in which he said the judiciary itself should have a primary role in investigating judges, had perhaps not been implemented well, as a result of which the wrong sort of people have been elevated to the judiciary.
Justice Verma told Thapar that in 1997, when he was Chief Justice, he had recommended the elevation of a High Court judge to become the Chief Justice of a High Court. But when the then Prime Minister telephoned him to say he had heard “disturbing reports about (the judge’s) integrity, he withdrew the recommendation and told the judge himself.
(Although Justice Verman studiously refused to mention any names, the judge concerned was Justice Ashok Agarwal, who was subsequently appointed Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.)
But after Justice Verma retired, his successor, Justice A.S. Anand, recommended Justice Agarwal for the post of Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.
Justice Verma further said he felt that a national judicial commission would be able to avert such instances. “That would act as a check, no doubt, and I think the time has come when more checks and balances are required and the best thing is transparency…”
Here's more on the secretive collegium that appoints Supreme Court judges.
Read the entire text of Justice Verma's interview to Karan Thapar here, and watch the video below. (Justice Verma's comments relating to K.G. Balakrishnan appear towards the end of the second part of the interview.)