Prosecute the judge

The CBI’s charge-sheet against a former high court judge, Justice Nirmal Yadav, shows some progress in a case of alleged judicial corruption which has received wide national attention. Justice Yadav was a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court when the incident of alleged bribery took place, but she was later transferred to the Uttarakhand High Court. An amount of Rs 15 lakh, considered to be a bribe for a favourable judgment from her in a land dispute case, was delivered by mistake at the house of another judge with a similar name. The case has taken many turns since it came to public notice three years ago. She has now been charge-sheeted under various sections of the penal code and the Prevention of Corruption Act and strangely the action took place on the day of her retirement last week. She has the dubious distinction of being the first judge to be charge-sheeted while in office.

The slow pace of investigation against the judge and even perceived attempts to bury the case had attracted much criticism. Both judicial and government authorities had tried to slow-pedal the investigation. The judge was only transferred to another high court when, from the beginning, there was credible evidence of her involvement in the scandal. The CBI filed a closure report in 2009 on the ground that sanction for her prosecution had been denied. However, a special court rejected the plea and ordered a reinvestigation which resulted in the charge-sheeting of Justice Yadav.

Chief Justice of India Justice S H Kapadia cleared the sanction for prosecution in September 2010 but the law ministry sat on it. The president’s sanction was given only on March 1.

Finally, there is hope that Justice Yadav will be made accountable to the law. The CBI has charged that the judge wrongly fast-tracked the case and ruled in favour of a party whose connections with her through others have been established. It has found a nexus involving lawyers, other persons and the judge. The prosecution and trial should take place fast and the accused should not be allowed to evade the law any further. Many judges of the higher courts have come under a cloud in the recent past. Effective penal and remedial action against wrong-doers will help send the message that judges are not above the law.

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