Justice Dinakaran and Land Grab in TN
The revelation of the illegal wealth amassed by the Karnataka High Court Chief Justice P D Dinakaran hit the headlines just as the campaign to declare assets of the Judges gained momentum. The ignominious revelation not only underscored the importance of the movement for judicial transparency and accountability. The very ethical and moral foundation of the highest judiciary of India was shaken, since it had tried its best to save the Justice in question. Eventually the Supreme Court collegium was forced to drop P D Dinakaran’s name from the panel of Supreme Court Justices.
The Dinakaran episode has two dimensions: one, judicial corruption; the other that of land and land reform in the country. The Justice had amassed 440 acres of land (one fourth of the village land, worth Rs 110 crore) in Kaveri Rajapuram in Tiruvalluvar district in Tamil Nadu, of which 197 acres was Government poramboke land. The Judge repeatedly denied this, but his lie was nailed by the Collector’s report supported by documentary evidence. The Supreme Court, however, overlooked the fact that the Judge got land in violation of the land ceiling law of the state, and only sought clarification from the District Collector whether his report contained the details of encroached Government poramboke land. The Collector in his second report confirmed his earlier findings supported by land survey numbers. The Supreme Court then resorted to the ridiculous ploy of asking the Survey of India to submit a report (thus in effect rejecting the Collector’s report). The SC did not even refer the matter to the Government of Tamil Nadu which is the competent, constitutionally mandated authority to decide the matter. Even activists taking up the Dinakaran issue against judicial corruption did not raise the issue of violation of the Land Reforms Act. The SoI’s response is not known. The highest court abruptly turned the matter over to the GoI to decide the matter.
The DMK Government was silent on all these developments and raised no opposition to the Supreme Court’s act of bypassing the Government. When the CPI(M) and its peasant wing announced a movement to retrieve the land grabbed by Justice Dinakaran, Chief Minister Karunanidhi came in support of the Justice! Shamelessly, he invoked a spurious ‘social justice’ card, saying that if Jayalalitha can amass land why can a Dalit Justice not to the same? As the Collector came up with detailed records with documentary evidence, the Government should have seized the lands or at least should have instituted an enquiry commission on the line of Sivasubramaniam Commission which had enquired into the allegations against Jayalalitha of having grabbed land allotted to Dalits. The shameless defense of the Justice exposed the DMK Government’s promises of distributing 2 acres land to the landless as a monumental sham. After the initial fanfare of the 2 acre scheme, the Government has given a decent burial to the scheme, with Karunanidhi saying he had enough heart but not enough land! The Dinakaran episode exposed the fact that there is no dearth of land; the Government itself has a land bank of thousands of acres to gift to big corporates and multinationals in the name of industrial development and investment.
The AIALA demanded seizure of the all the land grabbed by Justice Dinakaran, including the encroached lands, and distribution amongst the landless agricultural labourers and rural poor. It conducted a poster campaign which drew wide reception. A delegation led by S Janakiraman met the district collector and demanded the same. It demanded a district-wide investigation since land grab was rampant in the district. The Collector agreed with AIALA’s assertion that there were numerous similar cases of land grab in the district and assured that all such cases would be looked into.
The AIALA has launched a campaign in November and December. As part of a state-wide mass agitation programme on December 21, a big mass mobilisation and agitation is planned centering on the issue of land. Panchayat level propaganda and agitational activities have been planned. The programme will culminate in a mass agitation in front of the collectorate demanding 2 acre land and 5 cent housing site as was promised by the DMK govt.