Apex court faces demand to interrogate sitting judges

July 17th, 2008 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 17 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday faced a demand for direct “interrogation of several sitting judges”, including one of its own, “by police constables” for their alleged role in the fraudulent withdrawal of over Rs.70 million from Ghaziabad’s district court treasury. A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnann faced the demand despite notices to the central and the Uttar Pradesh governments on a lawsuit seeking direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to probe the fraud.

The ongoing probe by the Ghaziabad police has thrown up the name of a sitting apex court judge, besides those of several retired and serving judges of the Allahabad and Calcutta High Courts and of Uttar Pradesh lower judiciary.

“If you want that sitting judges should be interrogated by police constables, then first amend your petition,” snapped the chief justice at senior counsel Shanti Bhushan, who raised the demand during the hearing of the lawsuit.

Bhushan raised the demand referring to an earlier administrative order of the apex court to Ghaziabad’s senior superintendent of police (SSP) to send to the chief justice his queries to be posed to judges who are allegedly involved in the fraud.

The Ghaziabad police had approached the chief justice for his permission to interrogate the higher judiciary judges.

The office of the chief justice had asked the Ghaziabad police to send its queries to it for prior vetting, before forwarding the same to the concerned judges.

During his argument, Bhushan contended there cannot be double standards for interrogating different sets of accused people involved in the same case.

The police do not have to interrogate one set of the accused directly simply because they happen to be common people while to interrogate the other set of the accused, they have to go through a court, Bhushan argued.

“Nowhere does the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) provide that the police have to submit its questions to a court before interrogating an accused,” he contended.

The chief justice then said he instructed the Ghaziabad SSP as the administrative head of the apex court.

“It was a matter on the administrative side of the court. I passed the order as per administrative rules. If you want to challenge this order, you challenge it. I will withdraw from the bench,” said the chief justice.

As per the principle of natural justice, a judge, whose order or decision is challenged, does not hear the case and sit in judgement.

The chief justice’s bench, which also included Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice J.M. Panchal, discarded the demand by other petitioners for a judicial probe into the scam, saying there was no need for an judicial or magisterial enquiry into the matter on which a criminal case has been lodged and a full-fledged police investigation is on.

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