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Govt refuses to probe former CJI

Refusing to probe the allegations of corruption against the former CJI, the Govt says there is “no specific provision” in the Constitution to look into charges against retired judges, reports Nagendar Sharma.
Hindustan Times | By Nagendar Sharma, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 03, 2008 02:12 AM IST

The government has refused to probe the allegations of corruption and misconduct against the former Chief Justice of India, YK Sabharwal, saying there was “no specific provision” in the Constitution to look into charges against retired judges.

Finally breaking its silence on the issue, the Ministry of Law & Justice has washed its hand off the entire controversy involving Justice Sabharwal by pleading helplessness in the matter.

In reply to a RTI query by a Delhi resident S.C. Aggarwal, seeking to know the status of probe against the former CJI, who faces serious allegations of having helped the business interests of his sons through some of his orders, the Department of Justice said it did not have the powers to deal with the matter.

“No specific provisions have been made in the Constitution for dealing with allegations against retired Supreme Court/High Court judges. There are no designated authority with competence to look into charges levelled against them,” the department said.

“The government has no constitutional competence to set-up any committee to look into allegations levelled against Supreme Court and High Court judges… The Judges Inquiry Bill, 2006, already introduced in the Lok Sabha, seeks to devise a suitable framework to deal with complaints against judges,” the government reply stated.

However, the department’s response contradicts the position taken by Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj on this issue so far. He has maintained that a “retired CJI was an ordinary citizen and enjoyed no immunity under the law. Those who have complaints can approach the investigating agencies directly”.

Bhardwaj, who was not available for comments on Tuesday as he was out of the country, has been on record saying the “ministry had no role to play in matters concerning retired judges”.

The department, in its reply, has further said that it had received a complaint forwarded by the Central Vigilance Commission against Justice Sabharwal, filed by senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, but it could not do anything due to the protection provided to judges under the Judges Protection Act, 1985.

However, Bhushan, who had approached the CVC and the CBI seeking registration of an FIR against Justice Sabharwal under the Prevention of Corruption Act, has flayed the government response.

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