Top judges to hear lawsuits against judicial corruption

April 30th, 2009 - 8:46 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday decided to continue hearing two lawsuits seeking a thorough probe into charges of corruption against some judges of the higher judiciary, an issue that had raised concerns across the nation.
A bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat was hearing the two lawsuits, which seek a thorough probe into the fraudulent withdrawal of funds worth Rs.70 million from the treasury of a Ghaziabad court that allegedly benefited several judges, including at least one from the Supreme Court and several from high courts.

The bench, which also included Justice V.S. Sirpurkar and Justice G.S. Singhvi, said the court has already entrusted the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is conducting an enquiry.

It will not be befitting for the apex court to continue monitoring the CBI enquiry, said the bench.

But appearing for one of the petitioners, Transparency International, senior advocate Shanti Bhushan said that dropping the lawsuit from the court’s future hearing list will convey the impression that “the Supreme Court has decided to bury” the issue.

He said the public at large is aware of the fraudulent withdrawal of social security fund of court Ghaziabad court staffers from the district treasury and the deposition by one of the accused court clerk, Ashutosh Asthana, that part of the money reached judges, including those from high judiciary.

Shanti Bhushan argued that owing to its “politically biased” moves, the CBI has been hardly left with any confidence of the public and the matter cannot be left in its hands alone.

The bench said that the CBI was still at the stage of conducting preliminary enquiry to ascertain the veracity of the allegations against sitting judges of higher judiciary.

It said that as and when the agency would need to lodge a former criminal case against a sitting judge of the higher judiciary and formally investigate the case, which is different informal enquiry, it will have to approach the chief justice of India for the permission.

This is because an old apex court verdict stipulates that no criminal case can be lodged against a judge of higher judiciary without the permission of the chief justice, the bench pointed out.

But Shanti Bhushan disagreed with the bench’s view and insisted upon the apex court’s continued monitoring of the CBI probe so that the public at large too could have some idea of the progress of investigations.

Senior counsel Anil B. Divan, appearing for the Ghaziabad Bar Association, another petitioner in the case, pointed out that the court had ordered proper investigation in last September and not any informal enquiry into the matter and had expressed its willingness to continue monitoring it till it reaches its logical end.

The bench eventually decided to continue hearing the lawsuits and adjourned the matter for further hearing after the summer vacations.

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