Matter of propriety



The questions raised about the conduct and integrity of Karnataka High Court chief justice, Justice P D Dinakaran, who has been recommended for elevation to the Supreme Court bench, are serious. There are charges that he has acquired vast tracts of land in his own and relatives’ names in Tamil Nadu, beyond his means and in violation of land holding laws. Some decisions he made as a judge of the Madras high court earlier and currently as the chief justice of the Karnataka high court have also been questioned. A bail adalat in which hundreds of people, including criminals, were released without proper scrutiny and the permission for mining in reserved forest land in Bellary are among them.

It will also be remembered that Justice D V Shylendra Kumar, whose initiative to declare his property in public forced Supreme Court judges also to do so, was not allowed by Justice Dinakaran to put up his declaration on the high court’s website. The Forum for Judicial Accountability, which represents eminent jurists and senior lawyers, and bar associations of the Supreme Court and high courts, including those of Madras and Karnataka, have urged  the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to probe the charges against him. Justice Dinakaran was summoned by the CJI for a hearing where he reportedly denied the charges but his denial does not fully meet the demands of credibility. His appointment should be deferred till the charges are convincingly disproved. They actually cast a shadow on his present position too. The Advocates Association of Bangalore has also resolved that Justice Dinakaran should not preside over the bench until cleared of charges. Judges should be and also seen to be completely incorruptible and of unimpeachable character. The people’s trust in the judicial process depends upon the judges’ judicial and personal conduct and their fair image.

The controversy has raised disturbing questions about the screening procedures of the collegium for selection of judges.  The present system is seen as opaque, promoting favouritism and perpetuating a brotherhood of judges. The collegium was either unaware of the questionable conduct of Justice Dinakaran or ignored it when he was appointed as the chief justice of the Karnataka high court last year. Either way, it has shown itself in a poor light. The government has promised a review of the system, with a due role for the executive in the selection process. This should be speeded up.

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