Friday, February 18, 2011

SC seeks report on ex-CJI assets probe

Mail Today had first reported on August 14 last year that Delhi-based journalist Furquan had filed a complaint with the Vice-President\'s office against K. G. Balakrishnan and his family. The complaint was also marked to justice S. H. Kapadia, who was designated to become the next CJI and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, among others.

Furquan, in his five-page complaint sent to Hamid Ansari\'s office, had sought a thorough probe by the CBI against Balakrishnan and his family members \" for finding out how much financial assets they have (allegedly) accumulated since he took over as the CJI\".

It was also alleged in the complaint that the assets declared by Balakrishnan during his stint as the CJI was \"far below the actual assets he and his family now own\". A Bench headed by Chief Justice S. H. Kapadia asked attorney general G. E. Vahanvati to file a status report within two weeks on the complaint against Balakrishnan during the hearing on a petition filed by advocate M. L. Sharma.

\"What is the status of the complaint forwarded to the ministry of home affairs?\" the chief justice asked . Sharma had sought a judicial inquiry into Balakrishnan\'s alleged disproportionate assets.

\"We will adjourn the matter. We don\'t want to go by this petition because much is

to be desired as far as pleadings are concerned in this petition,\" the Bench, also comprising justices K. S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar, said.

Balakrishnan had earlier told this newspaper that \" Whatever properties and assets I have are SC asks govt for report on Balakrishnan assets \'probe\' well declared. Nothing is there for me to hide\". Though the complaint against Balakrishnan was pending with the government, it still decided to appoint him National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairperson on June 3. In fact, Balakrishnan was the CJI when the letter seeking probe against him was dispatched to the Vice-President and other top brass of the government.

The Vice-President\'s office, too, took a long time before drawing the MHA\'s attention to the matter.

\"I am directed to forward herewith the representation dated 5th May, 2010 of Dr M Furquan…. regarding investigation of assets of former CJI, addressed to the Hon\'ble Vice-President of India for your appropriate attention,\" the vice-president\'s secretariat wrote to Union home secretary G. K. Pillai on June 21 last year.

The complaint carried specific allegations against Balakrishnan\'s son Pradeep, his sons-in-law P. V. Sreenijin and Benny, and daughters-in-law Soni and Rani.

The CBI headquarters was no less casual in handling the Furquan complaint against Balakrishnan, which it had received on May 4, 2010. A senior superintendent of police (SSP) of the CBI\'s Delhi-based anti- corruption branch (ACB) moved the complaint to its Cochin branch subsequently on August 10 last year.

\"The complaint is being forwarded to your office for taking further necessary action as deemed fit. CBI, ACB, New Delhi, has not undertaken any inquiry/ verification with reference to the matter,\" said the ACB SSP\'s confidential letter addressed to Cochin-based superintendent of police.

Friday\'s development in the Supreme Court will give fillip to the call that Balakrishnan should quit from the NHRC chairperson\'s post.

Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan had earlier told this paper that the UPA government deliberately chose not to take action against Balakrishnan. \" Not only did the government not take action against Balakrishnan, they kept the NHRC post vacant for a year so that he could take over the coveted post,\" Bhushan had said.

\"We had filed a petition in the Delhi high court more than a year ago, asking the centre to appoint NHRC chairman. But, they took nine adjournments in the court as part of tactics to buy time since they wanted to appoint Balakrishnan as the panel head,\" he stated.

\"How could the government appoint Balakrishnan as NHRC chief despite complaints against him?\" Bhushan questioned.

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