Bid To Impeach Judge Who Held Near-Midnight Hearing...

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New Delhi, Nov 18 (UNI) An exercise to get members of Parliament to back up a call to impeach a sitting Judge over alleged corrupt acts has got underway, according to a campaign for judicial accountability.

''Our appeal along with supporting documents is on its way to political parties and leaders,'' a spokesman for the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Judicial Reforms told UNI.

Serious allegations were levelled against acting Chhattisgarh High Court Chief Justice Jagdish Bhalla at a Campaign news conference last evening by three senior advocates, two of them former Law Ministers and a former MP.

Shanti Bhushan, Ram Jethmalani and Fali S Nariman alleged Justice Bhalla's involvement in a shady land deal in New Delhi's outskirts-- New Okhla Industrial Development Area-- and a late night disposal of a case in which his son lawyered for Reliance Energy.

A Campaign statement said the allegations pertained to 2003-06 when Justice Bhalla was a Judge of the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court.

These included Justice Bhalla's wife, Renu Bhalla, buying 7,200 square meters of land around a Noida expressway for Rs 500,000 in 2003-- when its market value was Rs seven crore.

It was government land purchased from persons against whom criminal and civil cases were pending in Uttar Pradesh courts the Judge ''may have been in a position to influence,'' journalists were told.

As a senior Judge on July 7, 2006, Justice Bhalla ordered the constitution of a special bench after court hours to hear an unregistered case in which his son, Aarohi Bhalla, was counsel for Reliance Energy.

The Lucknow Bench did not have territorial jurisdiction to entertain a case relating to Noida, which was within the territorial jurisdiction of the Allahabad bench, the statement said.

The special bench, however, not only heard the matter just before midnight, but proceeded to pass final orders in favour of Reliance by dispensing with notice.

Campaign spokesmen said complaints against Justice Bhalla to then Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal resulted in ''no action.'' On November 1, 2006, the Campaign officials wrote to then Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal for his consent to register a First Information Report on the land deal.

This was required since the Supreme Court had decreed in ''the Veeraswami case'' in 1991 that no FIR can be registered against any sitting judge without the consent of the Chief Justice of India. The case arose from the discovery of huge quantities of money at the residence of Justice K Veeraswamy, then Chief Justice of the Madras High Court.

The statement said, ''Not only was no action taken on this complaint, but the Supreme Court collegium-- with some dissensions-- on 14/12/06, recommended his promotion as the Chief Justice of Kerala.'' Bhushan drew the attention of then President A P J Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, pointing out how a requirement to consult Supreme Court judges from Allahabad was not met.

The then President returned the recommendation of Justice Bhalla's appointment as Chief Justice to the government for reconsideration.

Justice Bhalla was then transferred to Chhattisgarh, but immediately on reaching there, he was appointed acting Chief Justice through a Law and Justice Ministry notification.

''Recently, it has been learnt that Justice Bhalla has been recommended by the collegium to be promoted and appointed as the regular Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court.

''It has been learnt that this recommendation has been made by the Chief Justice of India despite the strong dissent of the Senior-most puisne judge of the Supreme Court.

''It is in such circumstances that we are constrained to bring these facts to the notice of the people of the country,'' the statement said.

The lawyers said it was ''distressing'' that despite serious charges of misconduct made by responsible persons on the basis of documentary evidence, a senior High Court judge, instead of being investigated, ''is repeatedly recommended for appointment as the Chief Justice of various High Courts.'' The statement said since all other efforts for an independent investigation ''have failed, there is no option left except for Members of Parliament to initiate a motion which may lead to the ultimate removal (impeachment) of the Judge under the Judges Inquiry Act, 1968.'' The motion will have to be signed by 100 MPs of the Lok Sabha, or 50 MPs of the Rajya Sabha.

UNI

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