The Supreme Court on Tuesday while allowing the removal proceedings against Justice P. D. Dinakaran to continue, asked the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha to appoint another jurist as one of the members of the probe panel in the place of senior advocate P. P. Rao.
A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and C.K. Prasad, however, dismissed the writ petition filed by Justice Dinakaran, the Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court, even while accepting his contention that there was likelihood of bias in the proceedings if Mr. Rao continued to function as a member of the committee headed by Supreme Court judge Aftab Alam.
Though Justice Dinakaran challenged framing of charges through another writ petition, the Bench pronounced orders only on one petition.
Writing the judgment, Justice Singhvi said: “It is not in dispute that Mr. Rao participated in the seminar organised by the Bar Association of India of which he was Vice-President. He demanded public inquiry into the charges levelled against the petitioner before his elevation as a Judge of this Court. During the seminar, many eminent advocates spoke against the proposed elevation of the petitioner on the ground that there were serious allegations against him. Thereafter, Mr. Rao drafted a resolution opposing elevation of the petitioner as a Judge of this Court. He, along with other eminent lawyers, met the then Chief Justice of India.”
The Bench said: “These facts could give rise to reasonable apprehension in the mind of an intelligent person that Mr. Rao [respondent No.3] was likely to be biased. A reasonable, objective and informed person may say that respondent No. 3 would not have opposed elevation of the petitioner if he was not satisfied that there was some substance in the allegations levelled against him.
“The issue of bias of respondent No. 3 has not to be seen from the view point of this Court or for that matter the Committee. It has to be seen from the angle of a reasonable, objective and informed person. What opinion would he form? It is his apprehension which is of paramount importance. From the facts narrated it can be said that the petitioner's apprehension of likelihood of bias against respondent No. 3 is reasonable and not fanciful, though, in fact, he may not be biased,” it said.
The Bench said the belated raising of objection against inclusion of respondent No. 3 in the Committee appeared to be a calculated move on the petitioner's part. “He is an intelligent person and knows that in terms of Rule 9(2)(c) of the Judges (Inquiry) Rules, 1969, the Presiding Officer of the Committee is required to forward the report to the Chairman within three months from the date the charges framed under Section 3(3) of the Act were served upon him. Therefore, he wants to adopt every possible tactic to delay the submission of report which may in all probability compel the Committee to make a request to the Chairman to extend the time in terms of proviso to Rule 9(2) (c). This Court or, for that reason, no Court can render assistance to the petitioner in a petition filed with the sole object of delaying finalisation of the inquiry.”
However, the Bench said, “keeping in view our finding on the issue of bias, we would request the Chairman to nominate another distinguished jurist in place of respondent No.3. The proceedings initiated against the petitioner have progressed only to the stage of framing of charges and the Committee is yet to record its findings on the charges and submit report. Therefore, nomination of another jurist will not hamper the proceedings of the Committee and the reconstituted Committee shall be entitled to proceed on the charges already framed against the petitioner.”