Karnataka HC judge receives 'transfer threat' for remark against ACB official

Lashing out at the way the ACB functioned, Justice Sandesh said he is ready to protect the independence of the judiciary at the cost of his judgeship
Last Updated 05 July 2022, 03:52 IST

Karnataka High Court Judge Justice H P Sandesh on Monday said he received a transfer threat for his remarks against the functioning of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in the state.

Lashing out at the way senior officers of the ACB functioned, Justice Sandesh said he is ready to protect the independence of the judiciary at the cost of his judgeship.

Justice Sandesh made this oral observation while hearing a criminal petition filed by an accused arrested by the ACB for accepting bribes, allegedly on behalf of deputy commissioner (Bengaluru Urban).

During the hearing of this petition earlier, the court was critical about the functioning of the ACB and summoned the special counsel engaged by the ACB to produce the data, including B reports and charge sheets filed by the agency since its inception. Though the counsel undertook to submit the data, he made a submission on Monday stating that the material could not be filed since it is before a division bench in a matter challenging the creation of the ACB.

“Your ADGP is apparently powerful. Someone had spoken to a high court judge who mentioned to me an instance of another judge being transferred. I will not hesitate to name the judge who gave this information. There is a threat of transfers to this court. I will protect the independence of the judiciary at the cost of my judgeship,” Justice Sandesh said.

Justice Sandesh added that his intention was only to put a check to rampant corruption in society. He also said the court can go into the functioning of the ACB even while hearing a matter pertaining to bail.

“Corruption is like cancer. If not detected and cured at an early stage it will be dangerous to society. I have no personal interest. I have my father’s four acres of farm land. I can feed some people if I leave this judgeship, but won’t stoop to this level. I am not sitting here to please anybody. This is nothing but an attack on the independence of the institution of judiciary,” he said.

A-G’s assurance

In the afternoon session, Advocate General (AG) Prabhuling K Navdagi assured the court that all the data like details of number search warrants obtained, executed, not executed, B report and chargesheets filed, will be placed before the court on the next date of hearing. Agreeing to his request, Justice Sandesh adjourned the hearing to July 7.

In the matter pertaining to the bail, the court had been repeatedly questioning ACB officials why the DC was not arrayed as an accused despite statements by the private accused that they were acting on instructions from the DC. For official work, the private persons, allegedly engaged by DC, had demanded Rs 15 lakh from the complainant.

They later scaled down the demand and accepted Rs 5 lakh. The ACB sleuths had arrested the private person and let off the DC. While questioning the method of investigation adopted by the ACB, the court in earlier hearings had said the ACB had been protecting corrupt officials.

On Monday, Justice Sandesh, who before elevation as high court judge conducted several trials as a sessions judge under the Prevention of Corruption Act, referred to such practices by both Lokayukta police and ACB police.

He cited one such case of an IAS officer (Kapil Mohan) without naming him. Justice Sandesh said that in spite of recovering Rs 4.22 crore in cash and 5 kg of gold from the officer, the Lokayukta police had filed a B report. When the trial judge issued a notice asking the investigating officer how a B report was filed, the judge was transferred. The case ultimately ended in closure, Justice Sandesh said.

(Published 04 July 2022, 11:57 IST)

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