Special to Firstpost
Advocate PA Chandran, a Dalit lawyer with a career track record of three decades in the Kerala High Court and founder of SC/ST lawyers’ organisation – the Lawyers Centre for Social Justice — provides compelling evidence to Firstpost investigative partner VK Shashikumar to claim that KG Balakrishnan’s appointment to the higher judiciary violated Article 217 of the Indian Constitution.
Advocate PA Chandran lives in Thrissur and regularly travels two hours to Kochi to argue cases in the Kerala High Court. He has been practicing in the High Court for more than 30 years. Like former Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan, he too belongs to a Dalit family and is an active Congress party worker.
In 2009 he was a serious contender for the post of High Court judge. He believes he was denied appointment because he lacked political mentors. “I’ve no regrets, except that a division bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justice RV Raveendran and Justice B Sudarshan Reddy dismissed my petition challenging the appointment of Justice KG Balakrishnan as the Chief Justice of India.”
Chandran filed the petition on 6 July 2009 — almost a year before Balakrishnan was due to retire — and it was dismissed 11 days later on 17 July. In his petition, Chandran argued that Justice Balakrishnan was appointed as a judge to the Kerala High Court without having the requisite minimum qualifications.
“The petition was never listed and the Registrar of the Supreme Court merely gave it a ‘Diary Number, No.19290/09, and posted the case as the last item (No 57). The petition was given ‘Diary Number’ to avoid a Judges Committee discussion on the merits of the petition,” alleges Chandran.
“I’ve filed the petition with all relevant documents. But the division bench dismissed the case without citing any reason.”
In his petition, Chandran has cited the Curriculum Vitae published by the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court as evidence that Balakrishnan did not meet the minimum qualifications prescribed for being selected a judge of the High Court. According to the official records of the Kerala High Court, Balakrishnan’s career record is as follows:
1967: B.L. Degree
16 March 1968: Began practice at Kottayam
10 January 1973: Appointed as Munsiff (he claimed to have practiced for 4 years and 10 months)
20 March 1983: Resigned from subordinate judicial service
26 September 1985: Appointed Additional Judge of Kerala High Court
The legal complication arising out of Balakrishnan’s rise is pegged to the constitutional provisions prescribing minimum qualifications to be a High Court judge. Balakrishnan held a position in the Subordinate Judicial Service, which consists exclusively of “persons intended to fill up the posts of district judges and other posts and other civil judicial posts inferior to the post of district judge.” (Article 233, Chapter VI)
According to Chandran, “when Balakrishnan was appointed to the Kerala High Court as judge he was at the most qualified to be a district judge.” Moreover, Article 217, Chapter V relating to qualification for appointment as High Court judge prescribes that the candidate should have held a judicial office for at least 10 years, or has been an advocate of the High Court for “at least 10 years.”
Justice Balakrishnan’s career record shows that on both these counts his experience was inadequate.
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Chandran had earlier argued that Balakrishnan should be impeached and removed from the position. But a division Bench of the Supreme Court dismissed the plea. “If the Supreme Court had verified the merits of the petition on legal grounds, the present embarrassment for the Indian judiciary would not have happened,” he said.
“Now we need a transparent judicial appointments committee that can ensure qualified judges in the judiciary. This is the only way to ensure that corrupt persons are weeded out from the Indian judiciary. Otherwise, tomorrow another KGB will be appointed as a judge in the high court and his family will loot the country. The commissions and omissions of the judges can destabilize our democracy,” said Chandran
Meanwhile, Advocate KV Kumaran, Chairman, Kerala SC-ST Protection Council & General Convenor SC-ST Joint Action Council, says that government erred in the appointment of Justice Balakrishnan. The 83-year-old Kumaran, son of legendary Dalit leader KP Vallone, had filed petitions before the President of India, the Prime Minister and the Director of the CBI challenging the appointment of Justice Balakrishnan as Chief Justice of India.
Kumaran, like Chandran, said that the government violated Article 217 of the Constitution by appointing Justice Balakrishnan because he lacked the minimum qualifications to be a judge.
Kumaran also alleges that Justice Balakrishnan is a member of a Dalit Christian family and his father, Lukose, reconverted to Hinduism to secure a job in state government service. His uncle, who remained a Dalit Christian, retired from government service as Assistant Director of Fisheries. Justice Balakrishnan married a Christian, Nirmala, when he was working as a Munsiff.
Kumaran claims that the World Council of Churches sponsored the study programme of Justice Balakrishnan’s daughter, Sony, and his son-in-law Sreenijan in London. This was done when there was a Dalit Christian case pending in the Supreme Court, he alleges. According to Kumaran, this is enough evidence to show that Justice Balakrishnan abused his position and office as a judge of the Supreme Court.
“Justice KG Balakrishnan has a vicarious responsibility for the misdeeds of his family members. His family has stolen public property misusing his office and position. So he doesn’t have the immunity of a judge and currently he is only Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. The allegations against his family members fall under the category of public corruption. He has facilitated their corruption while in office. So the CBI should register a case against him and prosecute him after a detailed investigation,” Kumaran demanded.
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Updated Date: Jun 17, 2011 08:37:52 IST