Scam scanner on 24 judges

Abraham Thomas | New Delhi
Thursday, July 29, 2010

SC stays trial in Gzb court, may shift it outside UP
Investigation into the multi-crore provident fund scam has yielded evidence against 24 judges of subordinate and higher judiciary besides six others who have already been chargesheeted in the case.

Informing the Supreme Court about the progress of investigation, Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati on Wednesday said while the 24 judges have been found guilty of "acts of omission and commission", so far there is no "prosecutable" evidence against them.

Sources said the investigation is on to obtain more evidence to prosecute them. The CBI report in this regard has been sent to the Chief Justice of India to take appropriate action against them.

The Supreme Court also stayed the trial pending before a Ghaziabad court after Vahanvati informed that the trial needs to be shifted outside Uttar Pradesh. He said that the agency was facing teething problems in the conduct of proceedings before the Special Judge, Ghaziabad, as the presiding judge wanted to make UP Police a party to the investigation, much to the chagrin of the agency.

This is a major twist in the sensational case which involves investigation against 47 judicial officers, including judges of the high courts.

Disclosing the status of investigations, the Attorney General said that as on date, the agency has found evidence of "acts of omission and commission" against 24 judicial officers, including a former Supreme Court judge - Justice Tarun Chatterjee. The CBI in its latest chargesheet submitted to the Ghaziabad court had already named six former district judges of Ghaziabad, three of whom have been elevated as judges of the Allahabad High Court.

With the agency still in the process of gathering further evidence against the 24 judicial officers, Vahanvati told the court there was sufficient ground to suspect an attempt to influence the trial as the judge presently hearing the case had worked with or under most of the chargesheeted judicial officers.

Appearing before the Special Bench of Justices DK Jain, VS Sirpurkar and GS Singhvi, the Attorney General said, "Proceedings in UP court are just not congenial." Citing a recent instance of the judge’s interference, he stated, "Three days ago, when the matter came in court (Ghaziabad), the judge orally tells UP Police to assist in investigations by moving an application....If these sort of things take place, we cannot go on with the trial."

Giving a week’s time for the CBI to prepare an application for shifting of trial outside the State, the Bench stayed the proceedings before Ghaziabad court. It even perused confidential reports prepared by the agency. While the contents of the report were not disclosed, Vahanvati said, "Against 17 out of 41 judicial officers, there is no material warranting any action. That leaves us with 24 judges/judicial officers against whom sufficient prosecutable evidence is not available."

Besides, the CBI told the court that 13 judicial officers have been named as prosecution witnesses, whose testimonies need to be recorded to establish the charge against the chargesheeted judicial officers and 48 other officers of the Ghaziabad court. "All these persons and their close associates...have close contacts with various judges and magistrates," the CBI stated in its affidavit, as a further ground to shift the trial.

The Bench, however, introduced a rider by suggesting that the accused must be heard before the trial is shifted out. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner NGO Transparency International, demanded that the report of CBI declaring no "prosecutable" evidence against 24 judicial officers should be made public. But the Bench dismissed it by saying it related to trial and the lower court was at liberty to summon any accused. The matter would be heard next on August 4.