O, Lords!

O, Lords!

If the discovery of Rs 15 lakh in cash at the door of the residence of a Punjab and Haryana high court judge in August 2008 was strange, the investigation into the matter and its denouement are more so. The cash was found at the door of Justice Nirmaljit Kaur’s residence. But it was claimed that it was meant for Justice Nirmal Yadav and was delivered at the wrong place. Subsequent investigations, conducted by different agencies or bodies, have confirmed that Justice Nirmal Yadav was linked to the money. But the case seems to have come to an end with the transfer of the judge to the Uttaranchal high court. This raises some uncomfortable questions.

If Justice Yadav was guilty of misconduct, her transfer to another court is inadequate punishment. There was strong suspicion of corruption which warranted strong punishment and not a transfer, which is normal for high court judges. On the other hand, if she was not guilty, then why has she been transferred at all? The state governor, on the basis of investigations made by the Chandigarh police, had concluded that the charge was true. The CBI, which investigated the charge, had found that the judge had decided a case in favour of the person who sent the money and thus confirmed the charge. But the agency closed the case because it did not get the official permission to prosecute the judge. There was also a parallel investigation conducted by a three-judge in-house committee, appointed by the Chief Justice of India, which reported that “there is substance in the allegations and the misconducts disclosed are serious enough for initiation of proceedings for removal of Mrs Justice Nirmal Yadav.’’ The CJI has refused to make public the full report of this committee.

It passes understanding why the law ministry and the supreme court’s collegium, headed by the CJI, decided that Justice Nirmal Yadav was innocent when three independent investigations concluded that there was evidence against her. The attorney-general’s opinion on which the law ministry and the CJI apparently based their decision lacks credibility. The A-G based his view on the CBI’s director of prosecution who overruled the agency’s investigators. The handling of the entire issue has again put a question mark over the effectiveness of the existing system to investigate charges of judicial misconduct. The CJI should make the committee’s report public. The reasons for denial of sanction for prosecution should also be made public.

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