Former Chief justice of India YK Sabharwal should volunteer himself for a thorough probe into the allegations of misconduct against him during his 14-month tenure in office, according to top jurists, including two former CJIs.
The jurists believe this is necessary to restore the common man’s faith in the judiciary.
Former CJIs JS Verma and VN Khare and retired Supreme Court judges VR Krishna Iyer and PB Sawant have told the Hindustan Times that a judicial probe will put an end to the controversy chasing the higher judiciary for several months now.
At least 10 senior lawyers, including former law minister Shanti Bhushan, have charged Justice Sabharwal with professional misconduct in office.
The lawyers, who are part of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability, have alleged that the two sons of Justice Sabharwal, who run their own businesses, benefited financially as a result of some of his judicial decisions. Justice Sabharwal strongly denied the allegations in a newspaper article recently.
Approached by HT for his response, Justice Sabharwal refused to comment, saying, “Whatever I had to say on all this, I have already said in an article which I wrote a few days back. I have no further comments to make.”
In his article in an English daily on September 2, Justice Sabharwal said, “None of my orders have benefited them (my sons) in any manner, whatsoever. To the best of my understanding, they have not committed any wrong, but if they have, law has to be applied to them like to any other citizen.”
But the jurists are not convinced. Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, a former Supreme Court judge, has been asking the CJI to order an inquiry into the allegations against Justice Sabharwal.
“I am asking for an inquiry which should be ordered by the incumbent Chief Justice of India. Sabharwal, of course, says the allegations are incorrect; it is therefore fit to get these looked into. An inquiry committee would be able to find out what is right and what is wrong. The public would accept that,” Justice Iyer told HT from Kochi.
Justice P.B. Sawant, a Supreme Court judge between 1989 and 1995, appealed to Justice Sabharwal to volunteer himself for an inquiry to clear all doubts and restore the respect for judiciary in the eyes of the common man.
“Sabharwal should himself demand an impartial inquiry to come clean in the matter. This is a question which concerns the entire judiciary and not him alone. It has become a big issue and would have far-reaching repercussions on the independent judiciary in the world’s largest democracy,” he said.
Former CJI Verma, who held the office in 1997-98, said no doubt should be allowed to linger in the minds of the people. “The majority of allegations against judges are wrong, but if there is a reasonable allegation backed by cogent and authentic material, there should be an inquiry.”
“I support a probe by the judiciary itself and not by an outside agency. An inquiry would help in clearing doubts from the minds of the common man,” Justice Verma said.
Former CJI V.N. Khare, who held the office between 2002 and 2004, said anybody who held a public office was accountable to people. “Judges are human beings after all and they can also be fallible. If an allegation is made publicly, and it is clearly known that people who have levelled the charges are responsible and can be booked if their statement was found incorrect, in such circumstances an inquiry should be held,” he said.