INTERVIEW WITH CHIEF JUSTICE DINAKARAN
Despite of a series of reports about his properties and other holdings, which has resulted in his elevation to the Supreme Court being put on hold, Karnataka high court chief justice P D Dinakaran has not spoken out his mind so far. Now, for the first time, in an exclusive interview to The Times of India, Justice Dinakaran says a war is being waged against the independence of the judiciary. He denies having encroached on any land and says, "In the end truth alone will triumph."
A few days ago you said silence was your strength. What made you open up now?
Yes, I did say ‘silence is my strength’; My silence, however, should not be construed as an admission of these baseless allegations.
The allegations against you concern your land holdings at Kaverirajapuram in Tiruvallur district near Chennai in Tamil Nadu. You are said to have encroached on 199 acres of anadheenam lands there?
I can only laugh off the photos published by a section of the press and electronic media, who have unleashed a slander campaign against me. I reiterate my clarification to the Supreme Court collegium that I have not encroached on any government or public land; much less anadheenam lands, which are still under the possession and enjoyment of patta-holders (title-holders). We do not claim any interest or right, such as possession, ownership or enjoyment over these anadheenam lands or government poromboke lands.
First of all, please understand what anadheenam lands mean: it means land once held by title-holders which was abandoned or neglected due to non-payment of land revenue for a long period. Patta-holders are entitled to reclaim right over these anadheenam lands on payment of arrears of revenue. These anadheenam lands are, therefore, not poromboke lands and do not belong to the Government. This principle is well settled in law.
Assuming all these are anadheenam lands, is it right to put up a fence around them?
Our patta lands alone are fenced by barbed wire, that too at the points identified by the survey authorities. These anadheenam lands are well outside the fence. They are currently possessed and used by the respective patta-holders for grazing cattle, sheep and goat. I am given to understand the legal heirs of these anadheenam lands, who are adjacent to my lands, have already approached revenue authorities for rectification of the error that crept into the records and are staking their legitimate claims.
Also, on the other side of my land, there is a moat (dry trench) which was used by illicit arrack brewers. There were raids by the Prohibition and Enforcement Wing in the area during 2002-2005. Only in order to prevent such illegal activities in the trench area, barricades were erected by the villagers. But unfortunately, media and other busybodies have taken photographs from the other side of the fence and posted it as encroached land. For the past 16 years, no complaint had been made by whomsoever in whatsoever manner.
Okay, but why should an attempt be made to remove the fence which would amount to tampering with evidence of encroachment available to revenue authorities?
It is a mischievous accusation. Why should either I or my family remove the fence erected to safeguard our property? The story built up by the authorities is nothing but a vain attempt to escape from the earlier misleading statements of alleged encroachment.
Well, what is the exact extent of lands standing in your name or your dependents?
In all, 36 acres of land stand in my name and about 17 acres of land in my wife’s name. It was purchased much prior to my elevation on December 19, 1996. Nothing was purchased after I became a judge. My close and distant family members too own lands contiguous to that of ours. But I cannot talk on their behalf, for I hold no vakalat (brief) for them.
What pains me is that all sorts of busybodies, in the guise of revenue officials and mediapersons, have barged into my lands and then cooked up unfounded stories. If they want to have a look on my farm, let them ask me, I will arrange a tour. But they have to bring some snacks and water, for the place is not a ranch or farmhouse as is made out to be. Villagers of Kaverirajapuram, including the panchayat president and other elders, tell me that mediapersons never approach them for clarifications. If views from a cross-section of the villagers are obtained, then these busybodies cannot go to town with canards against me.
What about the collector’s report to the Supreme Court? Can he afford to be incorrect?
It is unfortunate that revenue authorities have not taken into consideration the correct facts available on record, ground realities and the well settled legal principle on the issue.
Sir, your defence of the Kaverirajapuram land holding pattern and anadheenam lands is perfectly legal. But this is not just another case for mere adjudication. It concerns your elevation to the highest court of the land. Is a legal defence enough? What about propriety...?
Mr. Subramani, I have only explained the material facts on record, ground realities and the legal position relating to the anadheenam land, making it clear that I neither claim any interest or right on the anadheenam lands; nor am I concerned about anadheenam lands outside my fence. When once you yourselves agree that my stand in this regard is solidly legal, the propriety, undoubtedly, demands that the allegations against my elevation be rejected.
What about the five residential plots on the IT Corridor at Sholinganallur in Chennai? It has been alleged that they were allotted to your family members by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board.
Let them show what the illegality is. Much before the area was declared an IT corridor, the TNHB has published advertisements inviting applications for allotment of unsold plots. They applied under the general category. The plots were allotted in 2001. Payment was made from our known and declared sources of income, and it was duly disclosed in our income tax returns. Do you, by any means, expect me to donate my family’s income to these busybodies, instead of investing it gainfully? Mr. Subramani, allotment of the plots was not made under government quota or on preferential basis.
What about irregularities in judicial orders which a memorandum to the SC talks about?
I want to make one thing very clear. I will not comment on the judicial side of their allegations; nor about the decision of the collegium of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, which is the highest judicial body of the land, in which I have the greatest respect and confidence. I cannot discuss these matters in detail, because PD Dinakaran is not only an individual, but is also holding constitutional office of the chief justice of Karnataka High Court.
If my orders were bad, an appeal remedy is always there, because, no judge can claim that his orders are not appealable. I as an individual, cannot be vilified on that count.
You have formed four companies...
Not by myself or by my wife/daughters. No new corpus was created. Lands already held by my relatives were transferred to the companies towards their respective equity share, which is permitted in law. It is an arrangement for convenient management of lands already held.
Your landholdings at Shenoy Nagar and Anna Nagar in Chennai and the buildings coming up there, too, are subject matters of the memorandum to the Supreme Court.
Do you think I have to go around explaining to everyone about my property, which I had acquired much before my appointment as a judge or out of known source of income filed in my returns? Why should I reply to these busybodies?
The last memorandum to the SC talks about a case, in which one of the parties was your friend. You had allegedly enjoyed their hospitality when you were abroad and yet proceeded to pass favourable orders.
Let them just show one line in my order — that they are talking about — passed in favour of any such friend. For your kind information, I am informed that the case they are referring to is still pending in the high court, and no finality has yet been reached. Tell me where is that favourable order?
How is your family coping up with this phase, which, undoubtedly, is difficult?
They are traumatized, to say the least. Let my doctor-wife tell you what we are going through (Dr. Vinodhini Dinakaran speaks: We are all under tremendous stress and pain, as all sorts of queries are hurled on us. We never intended or did any harm to anyone. The judge was always fair to everyone.)
This interview was given on 9th November 2009 to The Times of India by Chief Justice Dinakaran. This is available in THE TIMES OF INDIA website.