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Court cancels land allotted to judge

By J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI, NOV. 19. The Supreme Court today cancelled the allotment of a plot to a judge of the Calcutta High Court in 1987 by the then Chief Minister of West Bengal, Jyoti Basu, from his discretionary quota and ordered a public auction on the house constructed by him.

A Bench comprising Justice S. N. Variava and Justice H. K. Sema passed this order against the former High Court Judge, B. P. Banerjee, while partly allowing a writ petition by Dipak Kumar Ghosh questioning the allotments from the Chief Minister's discretionary quota.

Rejecting Mr. Banerjee's plea that he should not be singled out, the Bench said: "He has misused his divine judicial duty to accomplish his personal ends. He has betrayed the trust reposed in him by the people. To say the least, this is bad."

The Bench observed, "there is nothing wrong in a judge to have ambition to achieve something, but if the ambition to achieve is likely to cause compromise with his divine judicial duty, better not to pursue it."

The Bench noted that when the judge did not get a plot of land in the Salt Lake area from the discretionary quota, he, while dealing with a PIL on the issue, stopped further allotment from the Chief Minister's discretionary quota. A few days later, when four cottas of land were allotted to him, he vacated the stay order. "In the backdrop of the facts and circumstances, we are of the view that the conduct of the learned judge is beyond condonable limits," the Bench said.

"Today, the judiciary is the repository of public faith. It is the trustee of the people. It is the last hope of the people. After every knock at all doors failed people approach the judiciary as the last resort. It is the only temple worshipped by every citizen of this nation, regardless of religion, caste, sex or place of birth. Because of the power he wields, a judge is being judged stricter than others. Integrity is the hallmark of judicial discipline, apart from others. It is high time the judiciary took utmost care to see the temple of justice does not crack from inside, which will lead to a catastrophe in the justice delivery system, resulting in the failure of public confidence in the system. We must remember that woodpeckers inside pose a larger threat than the storm outside."

The Bench, however, said the proceeds from the sale of the house in a public auction within six months should be given to the judge.

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