SC questions Dinakaran for delay in seeking recusal of Rao

Sikkim HC CJ is seeking recusal of PP Rao from the panel probing corruption charges against him.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday
questioned Sikkim High Court Chief Justice PD Dinakaran for
seeking recusal of one of the members in Rajya Sabha-appointed
panel, probing charges of judicial misconduct and corruption
against him, 14 months after it was constituted.

"You could have raised the objection in January 2010 when
the panel was formed or later. We are not dealing with a
person of ordinary mind. He is a legally trained mind," a
vacation bench headed by Justice GS Singhvi said.

Justice Dinakaran, 61, pleaded that one of the
three members of the committee, senior advocate PP Rao,
should be recused as he had campaigned against his elevation
to the Supreme Court which was later put on hold.

He said there is "reasonable" apprehension of bias
against him with the presence of Rao on the panel.

The committee, however, refuted the charge of possible
bias and alleged the judge is trying to "jeopardise" the
inquiry against him by seeking recusal of Rao so late.

"The committee is of the view that recusal of any member
at this stage would surely jeopardise its working," senior
advocate UU Lalit said adding the Judge had earlier made
allegation against some officers who were probing against him
but he never said anything against Rao.

"There were umpteen number of opportunities for the
petitioner when he could have raised the objection but there
was not a whisper from his side for 16 months," he said.

He said there is a "monumental" task before the committee
which has to be finished by June 23 and recusal of one member
would scuttle the process.

"6,300 pages of documents have been collected and
there are fourteen charges against him including amassing
wealth beyond known sources of income and indulging in benami
transaction. For 16 months, he did not do anything. Stage of
objection is crucial and it is not bona fide," Lalit said.

He said the plea for recusal of the member of the panel
cannot be for "ulterior motive" and should not be "fanciful".

Senior counsel and former Additional Solicitor General
Amrendra Saran, appearing for Dinakaran, said the objection
can be raised at any stage and there was delay on his part
because documents were not supplied to him by the panel.

"Irrespective of whether it was objected at the first
stage or not when there is reasonable apprehension, then it
must be taken into consideration," he said adding there is no
haste in concluding the inquiry within three months and the
tenure of panel can be extended.

When the bench said Dinakaran could have raised
objection in January 2010 to the Vice President when the
committee was constituted, Saran said passage of time cannot
be a ground to raised objection and the crux of the issue
which has to be determined was "whether there is a reasonable
apprehension of bias against a member or not".

Saran pointed out that Rao was a party to the
resolution passed in November 2009 by the Bar Association of
India asking erstwhile Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan
not to elevate Dinakaran to the apex court due to various
charges of corruption and judicial misconduct against him.

The day`s proceeding also generated heat briefly when on
a submission by another counsel of Dianakaran, the committee`s
advocate UU Lalit took strong exception.

Lalit, who is assisting the Committee as a Special Public
Prosecutor, objected to the submission of senior advocate
Basava Prabhu Patil that he (Lalit) deviated from his role and
assisted the panel in framing charges against Dinakaran.

Lalit said if that was the case he would prefer to recuse
himself as the counsel for the panel.

However, the bench pacified him saying "there is no
specific prayer on this".

Patil is appearing for Dinakaran who has filed another
petition alleging the panel has exceeded its term of reference
in framing charges against him.

"Framing of charges has to be done on the basis of
notice of motion (of Rajya Sabha) and the committee cannot
beyond the notice of motion," he submitted.
The hearing will resume on Tuesday.

The apex court had on April 29 stayed the probe by the
panel after Dinakaran expressed apprehension of a biased
inquiry by it in view of Rao`s presence in the panel.

It had also asked the committee, headed by Justice Aftab
Alam of the Supreme Court and also Karnataka High Court Chief
Justice JS Khehar, to respond to the judge`s plea.

Dinakaran had early this week moved the apex court
against the ongoing probe against him by the Upper House
panel, contending it has exceeded its jurisdiction in probing
charges of judicial misconduct and corruption against him.

He had alleged that the panel has expanded the ambit of
the probe beyond what was initially adopted by the Rajya
Sabha motion.

On Dinakaran`s plea, the apex court had issued a notice
to the panel seeking its stand on the plea.