Time to quit

The move for impeachment of Karnataka high court chief justice P D Dinakaran has gained momentum with 75 members of the Rajya Sabha submitting a signed memorandum to the vice-president and Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Anzari on Monday. The controversy over charges that he has encroached into government land, acquired wealth beyond his means and has not observed the best standards of judicial conduct has reached a stage where strong remedial action is called for to uphold the prestige and protect the credibility of the judiciary. The government has rejected the supreme court collegium’s recommendation to elevate Justice Dinakaran to the apex court and told it to reconsider its proposal. The government has also said that it does not need any more enquiries into the matter, clearly implying that there is substance in the allegations. It is inconceivable that the collegium would insist on Dinakaran’s elevation in the face of opposition from the government, the bar, many eminent jurists and retired judges, the public and the media.

If Justice Dinakaran is not fit for the supreme court he cannot continue as the chief justice of the Karnataka high court either. He has not attended the court for some days but there is no indication that it is out of respect for the position he holds. The best course for the judge is to resign. If he refuses to quit on his own, the collegium can advise him to do so. If he does not heed the counsel, the impeachment procedure, which has been initiated, should be expedited. There is already an impeachment process against Justice Saumitra Sen of the Calcutta high court under way in parliament. This is cumbersome and time-consuming and, as seen in the case of Justice Ramaswami in 1992, does not always produce results.

Even if Justice Dinakaran resigns or is impeached and forced out, the charges against him should be pursued under the relevant penal provisions of the law. He should be punished for land grabbing, amassment of wealth by wrong means, doing benami deals and other charges that he may be found guilty of. The judge has not shown any contrition after the charges came out into the open but has stuck to a position of complete denial, and even threatened officials who investigated the charges against him. His position should not shield him from paying the due price for his misconduct and violations of the law.

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