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BREAKING: Justice Chelameshwar allegedly writes letter to CJI regarding Karnataka CJ’s investigation into a SC collegium recommendation at the Centre’s behest

In a letter allegedly addressed by Justice Jasti Chelameshwar to the Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Misra, copies of which have been marked to all sitting judges of the Supreme Court, serious allegations have been raised against the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, who undertook an investigation on the behest of the Ministry of Law and Justice of the Central Government.

The alleged letter dated 21st March, 2018, accessed by TIJ, reads,

“I read with dismay and disbelief the “confidential report” sent to the Hon’ble Chief Justice by Shri Dinesh Maheswari, the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court. To begin with, it was unasked for. Second, it is uncalled for. The confidential report blatantly records the impropriety of the executive directly contacting the High Court to reassess a collegium recommendation of the Supreme Court.”

The issue relates to the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendation to elevate Mr.P.Krishna Bhat, Principal District and Sessions Judge, who had been recommended for elevation by the Karnataka High Court collegium in 2016. The Supreme Court Collegium had recommended the elevation of Bhat alongwith five other judges in April 2017. While the Government accepted the recommendation in the case of the other five persons, it sat on the file in case of Bhat. It did not return the recommendation to the Supreme Court Collegium, which is the established practice, in cases where the Government does not concur with the collegium’s resolution.

The controversy over Bhat’s elevation was triggered by a complaint allegedly filed by Ms.M.S.Shashikala who had filed a complaint against him, alleging “atrocities and abuse of power” by him against her. The letter further reads:

From the material available on record, it appears that Ms. M.S. Shashikala offered her resignation in April 2016 and withdrew it in June 2016. The then Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court was asked to provide the details and background of Ms. Shashikala’s resignation. The then Chief Justice, after inquiring into the issue, sent two confidential reports dated 14.10.2016 and 14.11.2016. He asserted that the allegations levelled against Shri P Krishna Bhatt were incorrect and concocted. He has found that Ms. M.S. Shashikala has made her allegations only to malign Shri P Krishna Bhatt.

However, as was reported in the press last week, Justice Maheshwari initiated an enquiry into the allegations against Bhat on a complaint forwarded to him by the Ministry of Law and Justice. It was this move by the Karnataka Chief Justice which appears to have triggered Justice Chelameshwar’s alleged letter. The letter reads:

Now the Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court informs us that he had received a communication from the Ministry of law and justice “to look into the issue.” The Chief Justice, establishing himself to be more loyal than the King, acts on it, convenes a meeting of the Administrative Committee, and decides to reinvestigate the issue, thus burying the previous Chief Justice’s findings on the same issue, given at our asking. He has been gracious enough to inform us, atleast now.

Raising concerns over the inappropriateness of the executive by-passing the Supreme Court collegium and corresponding directly with the Karnataka High Court Chief Justice, the letter reads:

We only have to look forward to the time, which may not be far-off if not already here, when the executive directly communicates with the High Courts about the pending cases and what orders to be passed. We can be happy that much of our burden is taken away. And an Honourable Chief Justice like Dinesh Maheswari may perhaps be ever willing to do the executive bidding, because good relations with the other Branches is a proclaimed constitutional objective.

The letter concludes with these paragraphs:

I am of the opinion that this matter is now ripe for the consideration of the Full Court on the judicial side, if this institution really is to be any more relevant in the scheme of the Constitution.

Since we are a precedent oriented institution, I may be pardoned for quoting a precedent to the Master of Roster that it was exactly a similar letter written by the then Union Law Minister which sparked up a judicial debate in S.P. Gupta.

TIJ has not been able to independently verify the veracity of the letter.

Read the alleged letter below:

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