New Delhi: A day after retiring, former Chief Justice of India NV Ramana is in the dock for helping to secure five acres of land worth Rs250 crore at Hyderabad’s Hi-Tech City for an international arbitration and mediation centre (IAMC) and soliciting business for it while holding the highest judicial office.
As many as 65 legal professionals have urged the Centre to ask the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to probe Ramana’s role in the “misuse of public funds and assets by the Telangana government, overlooking procedure and propriety".
Sriram Panchu, a senior advocate of the Madras High Court, took the lead in getting the representation signed by 65 legal luminaries on Aug 15.
The IAMC was set up as a trust formed by Ramana, who authored its deed as a public charitable trust, with Justice Hima Kohli, his colleague in the Supreme Court, and the recently retired Justice L Nageswara Rao as trustees.
The centre was inaugurated by Ramana last December in the presence of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Ro at Nanakramguda on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Ramana said at the time he wanted to make India a hub for international arbitration cases that currently go to small countries like Singapore.
The representation to the Centre has accused Ramana of "promoting the centre and using his official position as CJI to solicit business for [it]".
The statement said this amounted to venturing into "a business activity of administering arbitration and mediation for commercial matters by charging a fee”, which goes against the code of conduct for judges.
The signatories said they intend to "highlight some serious concerns affecting the rule of law, due process of law and judicial propriety, affecting the credibility of judicial administration and delivery of justice".
They have not only sought a probe into the transfer of public land to the centre, but also framing of guidelines on the conduct of judges in office and restraining them from getting involved in private ventures or helping them to obtain public assets or monies.
Panchu had asserted in an article in June that the IAMC reflects "a trend of judges using judicial office to benefit former colleagues, or themselves, by way of post-retirement benefits".
He had described how the IAMC trust sought land and largesse from the Telangana government, “which happily obliged".
The article was rebutted in a column by retired judge Kannan and in another by senior advocate Sankaranarayanan. Both columns were published by the legal news portal LiveLaw.