Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Don't want to open Pandora's box: Gujarat Chief Justice on judges scams

A division bench of Gujarat high court comprising acting Chief Justice VM Sahai and Justice Mohinder Pal on Tuesday referred the hearing of a suo motu PIL on allotment of plots to 27 judges to a three-judge larger bench of Justice Mohinder Pal, Justice J B Pardiwala and Justice Paresh Upadhyay, which will take up the hearing on Wednesday. 

The move came following allegations levelled against the acting CJ for having "personal interest" to own a plot. 

Justice Pal became part of the division bench after justice RP Dholaria opted out after the proceedings on Monday. The new bench framed 10 questions to be decided by the larger bench-main query being whether the allotment of land to Neetibaug Judges' Cooperative Society near the HC campus in Sola and its development was carried out as per law. 

In a jam-packed court room, the questions were framed amid loud protests by advocate general Kamal Trivedi and other senior lawyers, who have been hired by the judges. The issue of allotment of plots to HC judges took an ugly turn when justice Sahai threatened the state government to unearth many more scams in the high court allegedly involving other judges. 

This happened when the advocate general requested the division bench not to limit the scope of the PIL to allotment of plots only. He was hinting at a letter written by advocate BT Rao, who not only objected to allotment of plots to judges, but had also taken exception to 60-odd appointments made for posts in Class III & IV in the high court by the acting CJ exercising his powers under Article 229 of the Constitution. 

Gujarat HC took suo motu cognizance of the land allotment issue after two former HC judges - Justice BJ Sethna and former Bombay HC Justice KR Vyas - wrote letters taking exception to the process. 

The acting CJ also told the lawyers that he wrote a letter to all sitting judges seeking their opinion on the issue. "They felt that I don't have guts to take action. I waited and waited, but no reply came," the judge said. 

Upon resistance by AG against taking two former judges' letters as PIL, Justice Sahai immediately replied, "A scam is a scam. You made me do something I didn't want to do... If you raise this issue, many more scams will come and names of 3-4 other judges will come. The chief justice has all information. I don't want to open a Pandora's box." However, Justice Sahai accused a sitting judge of allotting the laptop purchase order worth Rs 2.79 crore to his nephew.

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