Unfortunate lie

The disclosure by supreme court judge H L Gokhale that former Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan knew that it was former union minister A Raja who had allegedly tried to influence Madras high court judge Reghupathy in an anticipatory bail case last year exposes the former CJI as a liar. It is an unfortunate word to be used for a former head of the country’s judiciary and it should be an embarrassment for the country. But there could be no other description after Justice Gokhale, who was the Madras high court chief justice at the time, has roundly contradicted Justice Balakrishnan’s claim that he did not know the identity of the minister. Justice Gokhale has now said that Raja’s name was mentioned by Justice Reghupathy in his letter, which was with the CJI. This makes Justice Balakrishnan not only guilty of misrepresentation but also suppression of evidence of wrong-doing.

As the CJI it was his duty to protect the integrity of the judiciary and ensure that there was no interference in its working. It was also his responsibility to ensure that any charge of such interference was investigated and corrective and penal action taken. Instead it now turns out that he not only failed in his duty but tried to shield himself, shifting the blame to others. His defence is evasive and unconvincing, based on technical nit-picking. The failure is in line with his poor record as chief justice, marked by a refusal to allow disclosure of wealth by judges and shielding of judges like P D Dinakaran. The obstructionist arguments which he put forward then in the name of protecting the high status of the judiciary seem to have been excuses. This was clear even then but there would not be any doubt about it in the light of the latest disclosure.

This also makes him unfit to hold his present position of the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. A person who had no regard for the integrity of the judiciary, is guilty of dereliction of duty and lied in public about it should not hold such a high constitutional position. His credibility has been damaged and his continuance will lower the prestige and credibility of the position he is holding. And now that there is a strong case against Raja, the present Chief Justice of India should initiate proceedings against him on the basis of the complaint from Justice Reghupathy which is on record.

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