New Delhi(PTI): The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought the assistance of the Attorney General to hear a plea seeking a CBI probe into alleged amassing of wealth by the kith and kin of Justice K G Balakrishnan during his tenure as an apex court judge and Chairperson of the NHRC.
“Let learned Attorney General appear and assist us,” a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Prafulla C Pant said and fixed the PIL, filed by NGO Common Cause, for hearing on November 15.
During the brief hearing, the bench, which made clear that it would not go into the allegations of ‘benami’ transactions, said the issue of alleged Income Tax violations could have been looked into.
“It is the duty of the Income Tax officer to find out the source of income. That action has not been taken,” it observed when Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, alleged that around 21 properties have been acquired in the names of son, daughter and brother of the former CJI.
Moreover, the queries of the IT department on sources of income have not been sufficiently replied to, he said while referring to the reports of the tax authorities.
At the outset, Bhushan said the prayer seeking removal of Justice Balakrishnan as Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has become infructuous as he has already demitted the office and blamed non-listing of his plea for hearing for a considerable time as the reason behind it.
“… sadly, the impression which is gaining ground is that the judiciary now ceases to be accountable and nothing can be done against it. This situation has very serious consequences,” he said.
To restore the faith of people in the judicial system, CBI should be asked to register a preliminary enquiry into the charges of disproportionate assets under the Prevention of Corruption Act, Bhushan said, adding that he has annexed copies of certain sale deeds pertaining to some properties.
Earlier, the court, on August 26, 2013, had asked the government to file its response to the PIL seeking initiation of removal process of Justice Balakrishnan from the post of NHRC Chairman for alleged “misbehaviour” and purchase of ‘benami’ properties.
The PIL had sought that the competent authority make a reference to the apex court to hold an inquiry against Balakrishnan.
“The main allegation pertains to purchasing benami properties in the names of his daughters, sons-in-law and brother. The respondent no. 2 (Balakrishnan) and his kin continue to enjoy these properties or the profits earned from them even at present,” the petition claimed.
It alleged that despite there being evidence indicating that Balakrishnan has been guilty of several acts of “grave misbehaviour”, the government had refused to initiate the process for his removal from the office of NHRC Chairperson.
The PIL also sought a direction to the government to comply with the Supreme Court’s May 10, 2012 order by which it had asked the then President to take a decision on a complaint filed before her against Balakrishnan regarding his alleged misconduct during his tenure as a judge in the apex court.
The apex court, however, had refused to direct the Centre to recommend a Presidential reference for removal of Balakrishnan as the chief of NHRC.