SC no for Presidential reference against ex-CJI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today refused to direct the Centre to recommend a Presidential reference against NHRC Chairman and former CJI K G Balakrishnan for his alleged misconduct during his tenure as a judge in the apex court.

The apex court, however, asked the competent authority of the Centre to look into the allegation of judicial misconduct against the former Chief Justice of India (CJI).

A bench of justices B S Chauhan and J S Khehar said if there is any truth in the allegations, then it is for the President to make reference to the Supreme Court, on the advice of Council of Ministers, for inquiry against the former CJI.

The court passed the order on a PIL by civil society Common Cause, which had sought directions from the court to the government to make a Presidential reference to the apex court for removal of former CJI Balakrishnan as the chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

The NGO had alleged that the ex-CJI and his relatives amassed wealth far exceeding their legal income during Balakrishnan`s tenure as an apex court judge. Justice Balakrishnan had been elevated as a Supreme Court judge in June 2000 and was appointed the Chief Justice of India on January 14, 2007. He retired on May 12, 2010 after which he was appointed NHRC chairman.

The NGO had also sought directions to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for making a reference to the apex court under the Human Rights Act to look into the allegations of "misbehaviour" against Justice Balakrishnan. The court had reserved its verdict on the NGO`s plea on May 7.

A provision under the Human Rights Act says the NHRC chairperson or its members cannot be removed from their offices unless the President of India orders it on the ground of proved misbehaviour, ascertained by the Supreme Court after an inquiry on the President`s reference for the probe.

Common Cause, in its petition, had annexed media reports as documents to buttress its allegations that `benami` properties were acquired by Balakrishnan`s kin during his tenure in the Supreme Court.

On an earlier date of hearing, the Centre had told the apex court that it is probing into the allegations that Balakrishnan and his relatives had amassed disproportionate assets during his tenure as a judge and had submitted a probe status report to it in a sealed envelop. The court after going through the report had asked the government to tell it as to what further action it intended to take on the allegations against the former CJI and apprise it about it.