Supreme Court to hear graft charges against judges

July 7th, 2008 - 9:28 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 7 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday had to contend with a lawsuit levelling allegations of corruption against an apex court judge and several serving and retired judges of the Allahabad High Court and subordinate judiciary in Uttar Pradesh. Faced with the plea for an impartial judicial probe into the allegations, a bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan decided to take up the hearing of the lawsuit next Monday in his chamber.

The bench, which also included Justices P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal, will hear the lawsuit in camera to decide on the mode of probe into the allegations.

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

During the probe into the scam, 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, too were involved in the fraudulent withdrawal of the money from the district court’s treasury.

The first information report (FIR) about the scam was lodged by the Ghaziabad police on the basis of findings of the district’s Special CBI Judge Rama Jain, who too had suspected the involvement of judges in fraudulent withdrawal of the provident fund over the last seven to eight years.

As the names of judges of high judiciary cropped up during the probe, Ghaziabad Bar Association president Nahar Singh Yadav approached the Allahabad High Court, seeking a high-level probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The high court, however, favoured the ongoing probe by the Ghaziabad police, saying the police were doing a fairly properly investigation.

Yadav then moved the apex court against the high court ruling, demanding a CBI probe.

Appearing for the Ghaziabad Bar Association president, eminent jurist Fali S. Nariman 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, however, made a fervent plea to the bench to order a judicial enquiry into the matter, contending that it would not be in the interest of judiciary to leave the probe in the hands of police or even the CBI.

Without disclosing the names of the judges involved, Nariman said if the matter was left in the hands of police, “they would leak parts of their investigation selectively and the ladies and gentlemen from the media” would keep writing about it, sullying the “fair image” of judiciary.

On Nariman’s plea, the bench decided to hear the matter next Monday in camera and also asked Solicitor General Goolam E. Vahanvati to join the proceedings.

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