Punjab and Haryana High Court lives with another controversy

August 25th, 2008 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Aug 25 (IANS) The Punjab and Haryana High Court here is not new to controversy but the latest one to rock it - the cash-for-judge scam - could haunt its sacred precincts for a long time.The scam, in which a packet containing Rs.1.5 million was ‘mistakenly’ sent to the house of a judge, Nirmaljit Kaur, Aug 13 while it was allegedly supposed to be delivered to another judge at her residence, has blown the lid off the lawyer-judge nexus in this court.

In the aftermath, the other judge, Nirmal Yadav, has proceeded on leave, saying there is a conspiracy to drag her name into the scam. Haryana’s additional advocate general Sanjiv Bansal finds himself behind bars and has lost his job as a senior law officer for Haryana.

The other two arrested by Chandigarh Police in the case are a ‘munshi’ or assistant to Bansal and a Panchkula-based property dealer, Rajiv Gupta, whose past credential as a petty car thief who now has access to high court judges and top lawyers reflects poorly on the system.

The money, police investigators have found, was meant to be a bribe to a judge from Delhi-based hotelier Ravinder Singh, who is absconding. A property deal for a big piece of land in the neighbouring hills of Himachal Pradesh is said to have led to the exchange of money and hence the scam.

Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur, who took over here just a week before the scam broke out, has to deal with a controversy that is surely going to tarnish the image of the court.

It is the same high court where on April 19, 2004, 25 out of 27 judges went on protest mass casual leave - a thing unprecedented and unheard of in Indian judiciary. The protesting judges were against the then chief justice, B.K. Roy, summoning two of them to seek an explanation about taking the membership of a controversial and illegal golf resort and club near here.

The golf club’s case was pending before the high court when the two judges took its membership.

The virtual ’strike’ by the judges created an uproar in the country’s judicial community, forcing the chief justice of India to summon the three topmost judges of the high court and severely admonish them.

In June 2002, then high court chief justice Arun B. Saharya withdrew work from three judges whose name figured in the recruitment scam related to the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) and its chairman Ravinder Pal Sigh Sidhu.

While the children of two judges allegedly benefited with Class 1 government jobs in that scam, the third judge allegedly got several of his candidates through. As the case lingered, the judges were later allowed to get back to work.

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