Allegations of amassment of wealth by his kin are weighing heavy on former chief justice of India KG Balakrishnan’s position as chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). A day after veteran jurist, former Supreme Court judge VR Krishna Iyer demanded an inquiry, former CJI JS Verma and former SC judge PB Sawant asked Balakrishnan to quit as NHRC head to facilitate a thorough probe.
The government, however, appeared to be backing the NHRC chief, with law minister M Veerappa Moily saying allegations “need to be verified first”.
There is no word yet from justice Balakrishnan on the issue yet. The issue was highlighted by a Malayalam news channel on Sunday, saying the wealth of the son-in-law of the former CJI had grown around 130 times in the past four years.
His son-in-law PV Sreenijin, who declared assets worth only Rs. 25,000 in the affidavit filed in the 2006 Assembly polls (he was the Congress candidate from Njarackal), now allegedly owns several prime properties worth crores of rupees. Former CJI Verma said it was time for the NHRC chief to volunteer for a probe. “It is not a matter concerning the individual; it brings the credibility of the entire institution under the cloud. All doubts need to be removed,” he added.
Justice Verma said since only a former CJI can be appointed the NHRC chief, “it would be desirable for justice Balakrishnan to step down till his name is cleared.”
Another former SC judge and former chairman of the Press Council of India, PB Sawant said it “will be good if justice Balakrishnan himself asks the current CJI to conduct a probe”. “Any right-minded person would automatically step down for the post till he gets a clean chit,” he opined.
The government, however, did not agree. “Issues like whether the former CJI was involved, whether he has misused his office, have to be verified. Without knowing it, I do not want to comment,” Moily said in Bangalore.