Multiple house sites jinx Lokayukta hopefuls

Multiple house sites jinx Lokayukta hopefuls

Multiple house sites jinx Lokayukta hopefuls

Blame it on the controversial site allotment bug, the two prospective candidates, retired Kerala High Court chief justice Samindar Rudrayya Bannurmath and recently retired Supreme Court judge R V Raveendran, might find it difficult to pass muster.

The State is faced with this tricky situation barely a few weeks after Justice (retd) Shivraj Patil resigned in the wake of a controversy that his wife and he owned two housing sites in violation of the rules. Justice Patil’s term lasted only six weeks after  taking over from N Santosh Hegde.

The State Government’s proposal to appoint justice Bannurmath as the Lokayukta seems to have run into trouble, as his acquisition of a plot of land measuring 6,600 sq ft in one of the Karnataka State Judicial Department Employees’ House Building Co-operative Society Limited (KSJDE HBCS) is being questioned on legal grounds.

According to the sale deed, a copy of which is in the possession of Deccan Herald, Justice Bannurmath was allotted the site (Number 2118/A) in  KSJDE HBCS on September 18, 2001.

Eligibility criterion

But to be eligible for the allotment, Justice Bannurmath should have been an employee of the State Government’s Judicial Department as otherwise it would constitute a violation of the Karnataka Co-operative Society Act, 1959, and the model bye-laws for house building co-operative societies.

Clause 10 of the bye-laws deals with the rights of the members regarding the eligibility for allotment of sites/flats/houses and prescribes under section B that: “She/he is an employee of the judicial department in Karnataka and has put in a minimum continuous or intermittent service of five years in Karnataka.”

Further, clause 53 that deals with allotment of sites/flats/houses/apartment and prescribes that: “…The society shall allot sites/ flats/houses only to members who are eligible as per bye-law Number 10. A member shall produce a certificate from his employer regarding his employment and a length of service in Karnataka.”

It is being pointed out on the basis of Article 124 (2) and 217 of the Constitution that Supreme Court and high court judges are appointed by the President by warrant under his seal and, therefore, are not employees of any particular state government’s judicial department.

This position in law was reiterated by a full Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Y V Chandrachud, P N Bhagawati, V R Krishna Iyer, N L Untwalia and Fazalali Syed Murtaza, in a judgment way back in 1978 in the case of Union of India versus Sankalchand Himatlal Sheth and another.

The relevant portion of the Supreme Court judgement said: “…In fact, a High Court judge has no employer. He occupies a high constitutional office which is co-ordinate with the executive and the legislature.”

The same has been acknowledged by the Karnataka High Court in one of its judgements in 1995.

Asked for his comments on the issue in the light of his government’s move to appoint justice Bannurmath for the top ombudsman’s post in the state, Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda told Deccan Herald on Thursday: “…I was unaware of this. It is only after I spoke with you that we have learnt of this. The matter will be looked into.”

Thorough investigation

On whether the state government would recall the proposal made to the Governor, the chief minister said: “We will re-verify Justice Bannurmath’s credentials through a thorough investigation and take the matter forward and do the needful.”

Leader of the Opposition Siddaramaiah said he will “take up the matter and will talk to the chief minister tomorrow (Friday) after we get some proof…”

The whole situation may not be any different from the existing one if Justice Raveendran’s name were to be considered for the post.

Justice Raveendran has not only violated the aforementioned law and got a site (number 1,392) measuring 7,623 sq ft in Yelahanka judicial layout but also has another Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) site measuring 368.49 sq ft. in Banashankari, allotted to him in 1985.

And, a sale deed in his favour was done in 2005. Those owning Bangalore Development Authority sites are not eligible for allotment of other sites in house building cooperatives within the limits of the development authority.

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