The Supreme Court on Friday agreed with Sikkim High Court Chief Justice P. D. Dinakaran’s “reasonable apprehension of bias” against the panel probing corruption and charges of misconduct against against him and stayed all further proceedings of the three-member committee. Justice Dinakaran had complained to the SC about the presence of senior advocate P P Rao on the panel. Rao was part of a delegation that met then CJI K G Balakrishnan in 2009 to protest Dinakaran’s elevation to the Supreme Court.
A Bench of Justices H S Bedi and C K Prasad stayed the impeachment inquiry for two weeks saying it against the larger interests of natural justice. Senior counsel Amarendra Saran and counsel Romy Chacko appearing for Justice Dinakaran pointed out that the committee had passed orders without even hearing the petitioner.
The petition also raised an important constitutional issue: whether the committee, comprising Supreme Court Judge Aftab Alam, Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court J.S. Khehar and senior advocate P.P. Rao, could go beyond the motion admitted in the Rajya Sabha.
The Bench issued notice to the Registrar of the inquiry committee, the Rajya Sabha Chairman and Mr. Rao, seeking their response in two weeks and directed that the matter be listed thereafter for hearing by a vacation Bench.
In his petition, Justice Dinakaran challenged the April 24 order of the committee rejecting his plea that Mr. Rao recuse himself from the committee, on grounds of bias. Once the apprehension of bias was raised against a member, he said, an order compelling him/her to continue to serve was fraught with disastrous consequences, impinging on his fundamental rights. Mr. Rao, he said, was part of a delegation that met the then Chief Justice of India, K.G. Balakrishnan, and urged him that he be not elevated a Supreme Court judge. Alleging that the committee was rushing through the proceedings despite his objections, Justice Dinakaran said he had sought the documents referred to in the notice, but they were yet to be given.
He said the committee could not go beyond the allegations mentioned in the motion. However, in the present case “it appears that charges are framed beyond the ground mentioned in the motion and based on alleged evidence other than the material forming the basis of the admission of notice of motion. Any investigation before framing of charges was beyond the jurisdiction of the committee, and all further proceedings pursuant to such charges should be dropped forthwith.”
He rejected as unjust and baseless the committee’s remarks in its April 24 order that he was trying to delay the proceedings. Seeking to quash the order, he sought an interim stay on the proceedings.
With inputs from the and the Indian Express