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Group of lawyers demands probe into ‘illegal acts’ of CJI Ramana while setting up mediation centre

Representation signed by 65 legal professionals urges CAG to probe allegations since it involves 'misuse of public funds & assets by Telangana govt, overlooking procedure & propriety'.

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New Delhi: Several mediators and arbitrators have urged the central government for a probe into the “illegal acts” of Chief Justice of India (CJI) N. V. Ramana for his alleged role in the setting up of the Hyderabad-based International Arbitration and Mediation Centre (IAMC).

 As many as 65 legal professionals, arbitrators and mediators, including Sriram Panchu, a  senior advocate at the Madras High Court, have signed the representation dated 15 August.  

ThePrint has a copy of the representation.

The centre was established under a trust “formed” by Justice Ramana, and that he is also the author of the deed of the public charitable trust, they claimed, adding that Justice Hima Kohli and the recently retired L. Nageswara Rao were trustees. 

While the former is a sitting Supreme Court judge, the latter’s last day in office was 7 June. The controversy comes at a time when Justice Ramana will be demitting office on 26 August. 

CJI Ramana had inaugurated the IAMC in December last year in the presence of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekar Rao at Nanakramguda on the outskirts of Hyderabad. 

The representation claimed that the CJI was “promoting the centre and using his official position to solicit business for the centre”. “Justice Ramana has obtained large financial benefits from the government of Telangana amounting to approximately Rs 250 crore, by obtaining 5 acres of land at Hi-Tech city” for the centre, it alleged. 

Through such actions, it claimed, Justice Ramana has ventured into a “business activity of administering arbitration and mediation for commercial matters by charging a fee, while occupying his position as the Chief Justice of India”, which goes against the Code of Conduct for judges.  

Panchu, one of the signatories, had written an article in June that was critical of the role of former and sitting judges in the setting up of the Hyderabad centre. Retired Haryana High Court judge K. Kannan and senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan had then come out to rebut the charges.  

Also Read: CJI blames judicial vacancies for cases backlog, Rijiju promises to bring down pendency in 2 yrs

Request for CAG inquiry

The signatories, meanwhile, claimed that 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”. 

It then urged the central government to form a high-level committee to conduct an inquiry into “illegal acts, including the illegal establishment of the IAMC and the transfer of public land to the centre, and also frame appropriate guidelines relating to the conduct of judges while in office and restraining them from involving in private ventures and obtaining huge amounts of public assets and monies”.

The group also requested the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to investigate the allegations, “since it involves a large-scale misuse of public funds and assets by the Government of Telangana overlooking procedure and propriety”.

Over the past few months, the legal community has been divided over the role of former and sitting judges in the setting up of the IAMC. It began with an op-ed written in The Wire by Panchu who highlighted concerns similar to those raised in the representation. 

He alleged that the trust had “apparently sought land and largesse from the state government of Telangana, which has happily obliged”. The centre reflected a trend of judges “using judicial office to benefit former colleagues, or themselves by way of post-retirement benefits”, he claimed. 

The article was rebutted in a column by retired judge Kannan, and in another by senior advocate Sankaranarayanan. Both the columns were published in LiveLaw

(Edited by Tony Rai)

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