Special to Firstpost
Advocate A Jayashanker critiques the rise and fall from grace of former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan (KGB) in a conversation with VK Shashikumar of THL-Mediagrove. Edited excerpts:
It was K Karunakaran who picked up KGB and supported his candidature (to the post of High Court judge). KGB was practicing in the Kerala High Court as an advocate under P Shantalingam. Senior lawyers (in Kerala) believe that Karunakaran directed KGB to resign from judicial service when he was a sub judge and start practicing in the High Court.
The motive behind this directive was to create the grounds for recommending his name for the post of High Court Judge. KGB resigned from the judicial service to start practicing in the High Court. But he was not a successful lawyer. In 1985, he was appointed as a judge in the Kerala High court. He was appointed as a judge when K Bhaskaran was acting Chief Justice in Kerala.
At that time several Dalit lawyers and others petitioned the President of India saying KGB didn’t have the required qualifications for being appointed as a judge. A significant section of the lawyers’ fraternity considered his appointment as a back-door entry.
His tenure at the High Court was eventless. He was an honest judge and very cautious. He never entertained family members or relatives. He restricted his brother KG Bhaskaran and other family members from interfering with his affairs. Later he was transferred to the Gujarat High Court and then to the Madras High Court.
He completed his tenure in Gujarat also without a black spot. But when he was Chief Justice of the Madras High court, there were several allegations about fixers or family members influencing his judgments in 1999.
He was elevated to the Supreme Court on 8 June 2000 by the then President KR Narayanan, who was his father’s classmate. I published an article in Madhyamam (a Malayalam newspaper) defending his appointment. The title of the article was “Two Dalits and Indian judiciary”. I was referring to KR Narayanan and KGB who rose to hold the highest constitutional positions in independent India.
In April 2006, KGB’s son-in-law PV Sreenijan got a Congress ticket to contest the Assembly elections from Njarackal reserved assembly constituency. This was the first time Kerala came to know about KGB’s clout in New Delhi.
Sreenijan was not a known leader of the Youth Congress like Kodikunnil Suresh or MA Kuttappan, who have been AK Antony loyalists for long. His (Sreenijan’s) candidature revealed KGB’s influence with the Congress High Command.
I feel that his mighty fall started from his decision to canvass for Sreenijan’s political berth. With that decision, KGB and his family made strong enemies and people started doubting his credentials and integrity.
Kuttappan, former minister and senior Congress leader was the MLA from Njarackal constituency. Since Kuttappan was a sitting MLA he had fair chance to get a renomination in 2006. But his name was deleted by the Congress High Command without explanation. MA Kuttappan went and complained to Antony but the latter expressed his helplessness.
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When I watched these political developments, I felt an urge to react and wrote an article in Madhyamam pointing out that this incident would lead KGB to many traps in future and he had to compromise on several counts to save his kith and kin. Everything has a price... When KGB held the highest judicial office in the country, he should have refrained from certain activities that lowered the prestige of the Indian judiciary.
Sreenijan candidature was the first misconduct that labelled KGB as corrupt. As far as I am concerned, taking favours from political parties and governments should also be listed as corruption. KGB indulged in a corrupt practice by promoting Sreenijan even when he was a Supreme Court Judge. He was elevated as CJI in 2007.
After KGB became the CJI, Sreenijan started wielding more clout. I’ve never seen Sreenijan pleading any case in court. Most of the lawyers in Kerala really envied him. Barrister Kurian is known as a lion of the Kerala High Court. Kurian was the legal advisor of L&T for many years. But when KGB became CJI, L&T appointed Sreenijan as their legal adviser and transferred the cases to him.
(This is when suspicion grew that) Sreenijan started donning the role of a fixer. Even the cases in which Kurian appeared, the appeals were filed by Sreenijan’s law firm. This happened when we have never seen him in an advocate’s gown pleading a case. He opened an office in Emperor building.
KGB as Chief Justice of India must be thoroughly investigated. If one goes through his judgements as a High Court Judge and even as a Supreme Court judge and compare them with his judgements as the CJI there is a remarkable and marked difference in language. Before he became the CJI, his judgements were written in simple English. But the language, style of writing, tone, etc, changed when he delivered judgements as CJI.
It is rumoured and alleged within Kerala High Court circles that KGB out-sourced the task of writing judgements to one of the retired Kerala High Court judges, TL Vishwanatha Iyer, who actually started practicing in the Supreme Court when KGB became the CJI. Iyer returned to Kochi after KGB's tenure.
Note: 48-year-old A Jayashanker started practicing in the Kerala High court in 1988 when KGB was serving as a judge. He is a popular media critic and political commentator in Kerala. He has monitored KGB’s rise in the Indian judiciary.
Updated Date: Jun 17, 2011 09:49 AM