Former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, on Wednesday said the government had a right to appoint an acting chief justice of the Karnataka High Court even in case Justice P.D. Dinakaran refused to proceed on leave.
Justice Verma’s comments, nearly a week after the panel of seniormost judges of the country (Supreme Court collegium) advised the controversial Karnataka High Court Chief Justice to go on leave.
There has been no word from Justice Dinakaran, facing impeachment proceedings in the Rajya Sabha, on whether and by when would he go on leave, so that Justice Madan B. Lokur could take over as the acting chief justice.
“The Constitution provides for the appointment of an acting chief justice in a high court, in situations where the regular chief justice is unable to function,” said Justice Verma.
The former CJI cited provisions of Article 223 in support of his argument. The article states, “When the office of Chief Justice of a HC is vacant or when any such Chief Justice is, by reason of absence or otherwise, unable to perform the duties of his office, the duties shall be performed by such one of the other Judges of the Court as the President may appoint.”
He said the article was applicable in the “present case” where Justice Dinakaran had not been sitting in the court since December last year, and last month the HC had quashed circulars issued by him on the administrative side. “He is unable to function,” said Justice Verma. Verma said it was now up to the collegium and the government how they wanted to proceed. The Law Ministry is awaiting word from Dinakaran. “The amicable course would be that Justice Dinakaran proceeds on leave,” a ministry official said.