Apex court to hold open court hearing on judges’ graft

July 14th, 2008 - 8:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) The Supreme Court has decided to hear Thursday in open court a lawsuit levelling serious allegations of corruption against an apex court judge and several serving and retired judges of the Allahabad High Court and Uttar Pradesh subordinate judiciary. A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan Monday decided to have the open court hearing on the sensitive lawsuit to discard the impression that the judiciary had a different set of standards to deal with corruption among its own fraternity.

The case relates to alleged involvement of higher judiciary judges in the fraudulent withdrawal of funds from the Ghaziabad district court treasury.

The bench, which also included Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice J.M. Panchal, decided on the open court after discussing the issue with several senior counsel, including Solicitor General Goolam E. Vahanvati, Fali S. Nariman, Shanti Bhushan and others in a closed chamber, inaccessible to media.

The bench ordered the chamber hearing last Monday, acceding to Nariman’s plea that open court hearing on allegations against judges of the higher judiciary would damage the fair name of the judiciary.

Apprehending that the media would publicise the issue, Nariman had wanted the matter not to be probed by the police or the Central Bureau of Investigation, but by a sitting or retired judge of the apex court.

The bench had decided to hear the lawsuit in-camera to fix the possible mode of probe.

The names of the allegedly corrupt judges had cropped up during a probe by the Ghaziabad police into a criminal case, involving siphoning of Rs.230 million provident fund belonging to the Ghaziabad district court’s lower grade employees.

During the probe, key accused Ashutosh Asthna, a clerk at the Ghaziabad district court, deposed before a judicial magistrate that several judges of the higher judiciary, besides those of the subordinate judiciary, were also involved.

The First Information Report was filed by the Ghaziabad police on the basis of findings by district Special CBI Judge Rama Jain, who suspected the involvement of judges in the scam.

Ghaziabad Bar Association president Nahar Singh Yadav then approached the Allahabad High Court seeking a high-level probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the matter. The high court, however, favoured the Ghaziabad police continuing with the probe, and said they were doing the investigation properly.

Yadav subsequently moved the apex court against the high court ruling and demanded a CBI probe into the matter.

Appearing for the Ghaziabad Bar Association president, Nariman last Monday submitted to the court a sealed envelope containing the names of the judges allegedly involved in the scam.

Instead of seeking a CBI probe, Nariman made a fervent plea to the bench to order a judicial enquiry, saying that it would not be in the interest of the judiciary to leave the probe in the hands of police or the CBI.

Earlier, the Ghaziabad police approached the Chief Justice of India seeking his permission to interrogate the higher judiciary judges involved. The office of the chief justice asked the Ghaziabad police to send its queries to it for prior vetting before forwarding them to the concerned judges.

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