Will he quit now?

The move to impeach Sikkim high court chief justice P D Dinakaran has moved past an important stage with a committee appointed by the Rajya Sabha framing 16 charges against him. All the charges are quite serious and call for strong punitive action even if officials or ordinary citizens are found guilty of them. The case for action is stronger when members of the judiciary are involved. The committee’s findings have corroborated all the allegations that have been made against Justice Dinakaran ever since he was appointed chief justice of the Karnataka high court. They include corruption, accumulation of wealth beyond known means of income, encroachment of property, destruction of evidence and a number of other offences. It is wrong for a judge to continue in his position when he is guilty of even one of these charges.

But the process of impeachment is slow and it might still take a long time for it to culminate in action. It is more than two years since the first charges against Dinakaran surfaced.  He was considered for elevation to the supreme court and was virtually shielded by the then chief justice of India. It was only because of unrelenting public pressure that the elevation move was dropped and impeachment proceedings were initiated. The committee has taken over an year to frame the charges, which now have to be communicated to the judge. The judge also has the right of defence by way of a reply which will again be considered by the committee.

At end of these procedures the issue will move to parliament where there may be uncertainties and delays. The impeachment proceedings against Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta high court are still hanging fire. The report of the parliament committee, which found him guilty, is yet to be presented to the House. The impeachment motion has to be voted by parliament with a two-thirds majority. The slow and tortuous process defeats the ends of justice. The problem is compounded by the oddity that the impugned judge continues in his position all this time. The safeguards provided for to protect the judiciary have turned out to be obstacles in the way of taking action against errant judges. The proposed new legislation which seeks to make it easier to deal with complaints against judges is also not the best. Considering the mountain of evidence against him, Justice Dinakaran would be well advised to quit right now.

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