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.
Clause 10 (B) says that only an “employee of the judicial department in Karnataka” who “has put in a minimum continuous or intermittent service of five years in Karnataka” is eligible for allotment of a site.
And Clause 53 says that “the society shall allot sites/flats/houses only to members who are eligible as per bye-law number10.”
However, according to the Constitution, judges do not qualify to be judicial employees.
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 paid Rs1.54 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.
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.
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.”
Retired Delhi High Court Justice SN Dhingra put it bluntly: “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.”
Saturday, 19 November 2011