The Chief Justice of the High Court of Karnataka,
High Court Buildings,
Hon’ble Chief Justice, Sir,
In response to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India’s exhortation in his Law-Day address this year at New Delhi to expose corrupt judges and bring them to the public gaze, I would like to bring to your attention certain facts which go to indicate that several persons who have held or hold high judicial office have acted in a manner which would place their actions outside the cover of the Judicial Officers (Protection) Act, 1850 and the Judges (Protection) Act, 1985 for the reason that they constitute offences and are in relation to actions unconnected with their exercise of any judicial function.
The names of the judges involved in the offences are indicated in Annexure-A
The offences involved are through violations of Bye-Laws 10 and 53 of the Karnataka Judicial Department Employees’ House Building Co-operative Society Ltd.(the Society) which amount to an offence punishable under Sec. 109 of the Karnataka Co-operative Societies Act, 1959 (the Act) in sub-sections 3 and/or 15 as appropriate.
Bye-law 10 reads:
10 RIGHTS OF MEMBERS
All members shall be eligible to avail the benefits as per the objectives under bye-law No. 4 subject to the condition, that a member shall be eligible for allotment of site/flat/house only if he fulfills the following requirements:
[a] he / she does not already own a site or plot or house / flat / apartment in his / her own name or in the name of any other member of his / her family in the Corporation limits / development Authority limits / Municipality limits in whose limit the society is situated
[Explanation : ‘ Family ‘ means and includes husband, wife, sons having no independent source of income, unmarried daughters and person / persons dependent on the members];
[b] he / she is an employee of Judicial Department for which the Society has been organised and has put in a minimum continuous or intermittent service of 5 years in Karnataka; (emphasis supplied)
Bye-law 53 reads:
53 ALLOTMENT OF SITES / HOUSE / FLATS / APARTMENTS:-
The society shall adopt the system of seniority in allotment of sites / house / flats /apartments. xxx
The society shall allot sites/ flats / houses only to members who are eligible as per bye-law No. 10. A member shall produce a certificate from his employer regarding his employment and length of service in Karnataka. (emphasis supplied).
|The Bangalore daily, DNA on 19th November, 2011 had reported that two former Chief Justices of India, two sitting and seven retired judges of the Supreme Court are among a long list of judges who have availed of plots of land not meant for them. The judges in question did not comply with the Karnataka Co-operative Societies Act, 1959, and its bye-laws while buying land at concessional rates. Worse, in the process they disregarded observations and judgments made by Supreme Court and Karnataka high court. DNA is in possession of documents that show that two sitting judges of the Supreme Court, Justices TS Thakur and HL Dattu, were allotted sites after they became members of Karnataka State Judicial Employees House Building Co-operative Society in violation of Clauses 10 (B) and 53 of its bye-laws. (emphasis supplied)Article 124 (2) of the Constitution says that Supreme Court judges are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand. High Court judges, according to Article 217, Clause-1, are appointed by the President. This, in effect, means that they cannot be considered employees of any state government’s judicial department.But in violation of this, Justice Thakur was allotted site number 1,273 in the Judicial Layout in Yelahanka in 1996-97 when he was a sitting judge at the Karnataka High Court. He paidRs1.54 lakh for a site measuring 5,436 sq ft. The present market value of that site is estimated to be Rs2.17 crore. And Justice Dattu was allotted site number 2095 in the same layout for which he paid Rs61,598 in 1997-98 (present market value is around Rs1 crore) . He was also a sitting judge of the Karnataka High Court then. (emphasis supplied)The eight retired judges – Justices GT Nanavati, RV Raveendran, MN Venkatachalaiah (who was Chief Justice of India from February 1993 to October 1994), S Rajendra Babu, P Venkatarama Reddi, former Karnataka Lokayuktas NG Venkatachala and Shivraj V Patil, and K Jagannatha Shetty – also violated the same clauses of the Karnataka Co-operative Society Act, 1959, when they were allotted sites by the society. (emphasis supplied)
According to documents available with DNA, Justice Nanavati (who headed the one-man inquiry commission probing the post-Godhra riots) was allotted site number 2070 for Rs61,598 (present market value is around Rs 1 crore) on October 14, 1999, at Yelahanka Judicial Layout. He was also the Chief Justice of Karnataka from September 1994-March 1995 and Chief Justice of Orissa from January 1994-September 1994.
In accepting the site, Justice Nanavati violated section 10 (b) and 10 (c) of the Society bye-laws which state that members should have spent at least five years working in the Judicial Department, and should have lived in the ‘territorial jurisdiction’ of the society for not less than 10 years. The ‘territorial jurisdiction’, in this society is limited to BDA limits.
Venkatachalaiah, the former Chief Justice of India, was allotted site number 1295 measuring 5,400 sq ft in 1997-98 for Rs1.53 lakh (present market value Rs2.16 crore) and S Rajendra Babu who served as a CJI from May to June 2004, was allotted site number 1389 measuring 9,605 sq ft in 1994-95 for Rs4.44 lakh (present market value Rs3.84 crore) when he was a judge at the High Court of Karnataka.
The other four retired judges, according to the documents, have also violated the mentioned Act and are not in compliance with the Supreme Court and High Court observations.
Justice Venkatachaliah told DNA: “Some time in 1987 a representation was made to the state government that judges have to become members of the society. After which a 3-member committee was constituted for this. The then chief minister has sanctioned the sites for Judges. Pursuant to it, the bye-laws were amended. In 1997, when I was high court Judge, I was allotted a 60×90 plot.”
The paper approvingly quoted Retired Delhi High Court Justice SN Dhingra:
“Getting plots from executive is contrary to our judicial ethics. All these favours do not come for free; even a cup of tea is not free these days. So when a favour is taken something is expected in return too”. (emphasis added)
It may be seen from the list of allottees that several are holders of constitutional offices and are not employees in the Karnataka State judicial department.
Their taking/getting sites allotted by the Co-operative Society involves a representation to answer Bye-law 10(b) that they are employees of Judicial Department for which the Society has been organised and has put in a minimum continuous or intermittent service of 5 years in Karnataka, which is judicially noticeable under Sec.57 (1) of the Indian Evidence Act as amounting to furnishing a false information to a public servant and so a non-compoundable offence under sec. 177 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.(IPC). In addition, they have committed the non-compoundable offence punishable under sec.166 IPC by abetting the commission of the offence by those functionaries of the Society who are public servants as defined by sec. 127A of the Act and who offended sec.166 IPC by acting in disregard of the directions of Bye-laws 10 and 53 as well as Sec.109 of the Act in sub-sections 14 and 15 which were binding on them.
In as much as the office bearers of the said House-building co-operative society are employees of the Karnataka state judicial department and under your administrative control, I would request you to take judicial cognizance of the offences committed by them and to take the legally prescribed actions against those who committed the offences as well as those who abetted them.
It is necessary to mention that the Joint Legislature Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr..A.T Ramaswamy had, pursuant to the resolution of the state legislature, gone into the working of the Society and found it to be in gross violations of applicable laws.
At Page No. 14 et seq the Committee has observed as follows;
3. THE STRANGE CASE OF KARNATAKA JUDICIAL EMPLOYEES HOUSE BUILDING CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY-WHO WILL GUARD THE GUARDIANS ?
It is therefore clear that the Judicial Employees HBCS has violated the Land Reforms Act and the land so held by the HBCS shall be forfeited to the Government along with the structures on it.
[ Page No. 15 ]This only compounds the offence of the HBCS as it was taken possession of the lands without any title and proceeded to allot sites in gross violation of law. In some cases, the HBCS and a few land-holders have entered into a “compromise” before the City Civil Judge. It is astounding as to how such “compromise” in violation of the provisions of the Land Reforms Act and that too before a court of law can be entered.
The Judicial Employees HBCS enrolled 3399 members and 1353 Associate Members and allotted 2268 sites. This included a large number of sites allotted to many associate Members including Judges of High Court / Supreme Court their family members, Politicians, Contractors, Officials like Police-Sub Inspectors who cannot be even ‘honorary’ Judicial Officers while many regular primary members were not allotted sites. The allottees included such persons as Police Sub Inspector, Contractor of Public Works Department, children of Judges etc. who were not Judicial Employees or primary members. [PageNo.16] But this HBCS took possession of about 36 acres of land from land holders on the basis of Agreement to Sell and distributed the land as sites.(emphasis added)
At Page No-25 the Committee has observed
The Director of Public Prosecution (Civil ) who was expected to apply his mind and take an independent decision has failed to discharge his duties and he has concurred with the opinion given by the learned Government Advocate not prefer an appeal.
It is needless for me to mention that the report of the Joint Legislature Committee is severely indicting the Society for gross violations of law. The conduct of a City Civil Judge is also called in question as “astounding”. Needless to say all these acts are non-compoundable offences under existing law.
I submit it is very necessary that strong action is taken to restore the status quo ante the illegalities because it is the image of the judiciary as an institution and the trust reposed in it by the common man that has suffered by the blatant illegalities committed by the employees of the judicial department in both committing and allowing abetment of non-compoundable offences.
Karnataka Socities Co-Operation Act,1959: Under Sec 109 (15) where an office bearer, an employee, a paid servant or a member of a co-operative society,… used or allows to use the properties or funds of any co-operative society otherwise than in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the rules or the bye-laws of the cooperative society;…he shall be deemed to be guilty of corrupt practice, and, every person found guilty of any corrupt practice shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees or with both. (emphasis added)
I shall be grateful if you will kindly bestow serious attention to the gross injustices and serious violations of the provisions of the Act that have been committed by the employees of the judicial department who are under your administrative control and take effective action to correct the consequences of the crimes already committed by them as well as the abettors of the offences, so that the image of the judiciary may stand redeemed.
(3) A co-operative society or an office bearer or member thereof willfully making a false return or furnishing false information, or any person willfully or without any reasonable excuse disobeying any summons, requisition or lawful written order issued under the provisions of this Act or willfully not furnishing any information or handing over any documents or property required from him by a 130 Co-operative Societies [1959: KAR. ACT 11person or body of persons authorized in this behalf under the provisions of this Act, shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to two years but shall not be less than three months and with fine which may extend to three thousand rupees but shall not be less than five hundred rupees.
.(15) Where an office bearer, an employee, a paid servant or a member of a co-operative society, receives or sanctions a benami loan, accepts or obtains or agrees to accept or attempts to obtain from any person for himself or for any other person any gratification whatsoever, other than legal remuneration as a motive or reward for doing or forebearing to do any official act or showing or forebearing to show in exercise of his official functions favour or disfavour to any person or for rendering or attempting to render any service or dis-service to any person or used or allows to use the properties or funds of any co-operative society otherwise than in accordance with the provisions of this Act, the rules or the bye-laws of the cooperative society; xxx
he shall be deemed to be guilty of corrupt practice, and,-(i) every person found guilty of any corrupt practice shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to five thousand rupees or with both; xxx] Portions in [ ] to be carried separately.