For More Info Log on to

Google Groups Subscribe to RTI Group
Browse Archives at

Friday, February 9, 2007

Speaker writes to Bharadwaj on HC judge’s impeachment

Law Minister Mum On Justice Bhalla’s Wife’s Role In Land Scam
Manoj Mitta TNN, New Delhi: In a tantalising twist to judicial accountability, speaker Somnath Chatterjee has raised the possibility of impeaching the very judge who has been recommended by the Supreme Court collegium to be promoted as a high court chief justice. Seeking the government’s comment on the allegations of corruption against Justice Jagdish Bhalla of the Allahabad High Court, Chatterjee has written that he might then consult all party leaders on the question of impeaching the judge who has been recommended to be elevated as chief justice of the Kerala High Court. Although Chatterjee sought ‘‘an early response’’ to a letter he wrote in this regard on December 26, law minister Hansraj Bharadwaj has still not answered whether the alleged complicity of Justice Bhalla’s wife in a Noida land scam warranted his impeachment.While keeping the accountability process on hold, the government has asked the President to endorse the collegium’s recommendation to elevate Justice Bhalla. TOI has accessed the letter Chatterjee wrote to Bharadwaj on the basis of a representation made by former law minister Shanti Bhushan stating that Parliament should initiate impeachment proceedings against Justice Bhalla despite the collegium’s move to promote him. Calling the matter ‘‘serious,’’ Chatterjee asked for Bharadwaj’s response. ‘‘On hearing from you, I shall decide whether the matter shall be taken up by me with the leaders of different political parties for action, if any. I hope to receive an early response.’’ Chatterjee’s intervention in a matter of judicial accountability comes against the backdrop of frequent clashes between the judiciary and the other two estates on issues such as the sealing drive in Delhi, reservations for OBCs and Parliament’s power to expel errant MPs. But on the question of Justice Bhalla’s appointment, the government seems content to go along with the judiciary’s preference and ignore Chatterjee’s letter. It remains to be seen whether the speaker will fall in line or actually take up the impeachment issue with all party leaders. The proposal to impeach Justice Bhalla is based mainly on the documentary evidence unearthed by the Uttar Pradesh government, in two reports issued in 2005, showing that his wife, Renu Bhalla, had bought 7,200 sq meters of prime land in Noida for Rs 5 lakh when the prevailing market rate was Rs 7 crore. The revenue reports also brought out that the seller was the leader of a land mafia, Moti Goel, who is embroiled in several criminal cases in UP. If the collegium headed by the then CJI Y K Sabharwal could recommend Justice Bhalla’s promotion on December 14, in the face of such indictment, it was because, as TOI reported earlier, the UP government disregarded its own reports on the land deal and exonerated him in response to an RTI application filed by a third party. There has so far been only one instance when Parliament initiated impeachment proceedings against a judge. But the move to remove Justice V Ramaswami of the Supreme Court fell through in 1993 as Congress MPs abstained from voting.
Publication: Times Of India Delhi; Date:2007 Feb 09; Section:Times Nation; Page Number 14

No comments: