Questioning his non-elevation as the Chief Justice of High Court, Justice K.L. Manjunath of the Karnataka High Court has alleged “calculated and concerted efforts” to ruin his career. He pointed towards the “involvement of a judge [of the High Court] and his son in publishing certain articles against me and circulating it across the country is now an open secret”.
Justice Manjunath brought about the allegations while delivering his farewell speech on Monday. He has been a Judge of the Karnataka High Court since December, 2000 and is currently the senior most. “If I do not reveal the truth on the day of my retirement, the truth will be buried along with me,” he said.
Earlier in 2012, the judge was reportedly faced with a conflict of interest in a case that was likely to impact the fate of a housing society plot owned by his daughter, K.M. Chaitra.
The allotment appeared to be in violation of Section 10 (a) of the government-framed model bye-laws for house building cooperative societies, which mandates that an allottee or her family should not have any other residential property in Bangalore; the same section also bars multiple allotments. The very rationale for cooperative housing societies rests on the premise that they enable persons who are unable to pay market prices to afford a dwelling unit at subsidized cost.
The allotment put Justice Manjunath in a position of conflict of interest as he headed a Division Bench that was hearing a public interest litigation (No. 21860/2011) petition related to allotment of housing society plots.
Justice Manjunath has alleged that a son of the Judge played an active role in circulating more than 50,000 copies of a Kerala-based “yellow” magazine, which had in 2013 published allegations against him based on a complaint by one Furqan, free of cost throughout the country.
Later in May, 2014, when his name was cleared for transfer to Punjab and Haryana High Court, a new campaign was launched after a former Chief Justice of Karnataka, who is now a sitting judge of the SC, wrote to the CJI. He has claimed that the PIL filed against him before the Supreme Court, by Tamil Nadu based lawyers, was with active intimation of the son of the Judge, who instructing the arguing counsel in the Supreme Court.
Justice Manjunath claims that he has reliably learnt about the contents of a letter written to the Chief Justice of India by the Supreme Court Judge. The letter was “shocking to him” as it had portrayed him as “incapable of deciding either the question of law or constitutional issues”, besides alleging that “the relief to all other community lawyers was completely dried up” in his court after publication of the article in the magazine.
“Till today, the contents of the letter have not been made known to me. I have not been heard in the matter… Am I to demit this office with a stigma for no fault of mine? How will the sufferings to me and my family members be compensated by the Hon’ble judge [of the Supreme Court], who made false allegations against me,” he asked.
“For the last one year, Chief Justice D.H. Waghela has been telling me that several forces within the judiciary are working against me and they would not allow me to become a Chief Justice even for a day. His prediction has come true,” Justice Manjunath was quoted as saying.
With regard to the allegations that his daughter was allotted a site in a layout formed by a society, Justice Manjunath said a TV channel report that verified the documents, was satisfied that the site was not allotted, but purchased from the developer.
Manjunath said he had met then Chief Justice of India R M Lodha, when he was visiting Bengaluru, to find out about the allegations. “I was informed that three Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court have given a good opinion about me,” he said.
He also named the judges who had given a favorable opinion - the current Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice V. Gopala Gowda.
He alleges that his name was not reconsidered for elevation even after he was cleared of all allegations leveled against him. "Natural justice is one of the basic features of our Constitution. Even a hard core criminal would be tried after being informed about the charges leveled against him,” he alleges, noting that the objections raised against his elevations were not made known to me till today.
Justice Manjunath said he had met the Supreme Court judge himself who made the charge and he had also said allegations were false and he had no objection to clear his file.
Subsequently, he learnt again that on the letter of the Supreme Court judge, a report was secured from Chief Justice which also was in his favor.
"..Still for the reasons best known to the members of the Collegium of the Supreme Court, my file has not been reconsidered and why my file has been kept pending for more than 10 months, God only knows," he said, as he gave vent to his anguish.
He said, "The character built by me as a lawyer and judge brick by brick has been shattered into pieces".
He said D.H. Waghela, Chief Justice of Karnataka, had told him “forces within the judiciary” were working against him and would not allow him to become chief justice even for a day.
He said he had lived by the principles of Basavanna and the Kannada classic text Someshwara Shataka. He also invoked Jesus Christ and sought forgiveness for those who had tormented him and hoped what was done to him would not be done to any other judge.
He also denied allegations of being communal, as alleged by the Supreme Court Judge in his letter.
"Ultimately, the moral of my story is that there is no place for integrity and honesty and there is no justice to a judge in this country," Justice Manjunath said.
Read the full text of Justice Manjunath's speech here.