New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday stayed the pre-impeachment probe by a Rajya Sabha-appointed panel into allegations of judicial misconduct and corruption against Sikkim High Court Chief Justice P D Dinakaran.
The apex court passed the order on a plea by Justice Dinakaran, expressing apprehension of biased probe against him by the three-member panel, comprising Justice Aftab Alam of the apex court, Karnataka High Court Chief Justice J S Khehar and senior advocate P P Rao.
Senior advocate Amrendra Saran, appearing for the 61-year-old judge, pleaded before the apex court bench of justices H S Bedi and C K Prasad that Rao was part of a delegation of lawyers, which had met the erstwhile Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan in 2009 to oppose his elevation to the Supreme Court.
Inclusion of advocate Rao in the probe-panel indicates the possibility of bias in probe against the judge, he said.
The bench after hearing his contentions, stayed the panel's proceedings and issued notices to it, its chairman Justice Aftab Alam and advocate Rao.
Justice Dinakaran, in his petition to the apex court, said, "If there is reasonable likelihood of bias it is in accordance with natural justice and common sense that the judge likely to be so biased should be incapacitated from
sitting. The basic principle underlying the rule is that justice must not only be done but must also appear to be done," he said.
Challenging the panel's decision of rejecting his plea, the judge pleaded that it was in violation of natural justice.
"The impugned order passed by the Judges Inquiry Committee allowing a biased member to continue to serve as a member of the committee is hit by the principles of natural justice and, hence, violative of Article 14 of the Constitution," he said.
He pleaded that the apex court should quash the order passed by the panel on the issue of Rao's recusal.
The panel had on April 24 rejected Dinakaran's plea against Rao saying the objection should have been raised at the start of the proceedings. Rao did not participate in the meeting when this application was discussed.
The panel had also rejected his plea of staying the proceedings till he is supplied with all documents in the case.
Charges against Justice Dinakaran, who is due to retire on May 9, 2012, were levelled when he was Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court. He was subsequently transferred to the Sikkim High Court.
According to the judge, the panel is acting in contravention of Article 124 and 121 by raking up personal issues against him and his family members although the said constitutional provisions expressly barred any such reference of a high court or Supreme Court judge's personal life.
The panel, appointed by Rajya Sabha chairperson Hamid Ansari after the House initiated impeachment motion against him, had asked Dinakaran to respond to the 16 charges framed against him.
The charges against Dinakaran include possession of wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income and illegal encroachment on public property and land belonging to Dalits and other weaker sections.
He is also accused of having five Tamil Nadu Housing Board plots in the name of his wife and two daughters, benami transactions, acquiring and possessing agricultural holdings beyond the ceiling fixed by the TN Land Reforms Act 1961,
destruction of evidence, undervaluation of sale agreements, evasion of stamp duty and illegal constructions.
He has also been accused of resorting to irregular and dishonest administrative actions by fixing rosters of judges to facilitate dishonest judicial decisions while he was the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court.