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Patna HC withdraws judicial work from Justice Rakesh Kumar after his order on corruption in the judicial system
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Patna HC withdraws judicial work from Justice Rakesh Kumar after his order on corruption in the judicial system

Aditi Singh

The Patna High Court has withdrawn all judicial work from one of its sitting judges, Justice Rakesh Kumar, after he passed a scathing order highlighting the state of corruption in the judicial system.

The order passed by Patna High Court Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi reads,

“All the matters pending before Hon’ble Mr. Justice Rakesh Kumar, sitting singly including tied up/part heard or otherwise stand withdrawn with immediate effect.”

In his 20-page order, Justice Rakesh Kumar had remarked,

“In normal course, I would not have passed such order, but since last few years, this Court is taking notice of the fact that in Patna Judgeship, things are not going in its right perspective.”

Remembering the oath that he took on  December 25, 2009, when he assumed the office of Additional Judge of the Patna High Court, Justice Rakesh Kumar said,

“…since I had taken oath to do justice and if I fail to take any action to such corruption, I may not justify myself.

I am of the opinion that only to save the respect of judiciary, we must not put curtain to those corruptions, otherwise faith of entire society will be finished in the judicial system.”

On August 28, Justice Rakesh Kumar took up and disposed of an anticipatory bail plea filed by former IAS officer KP Ramaiah in connection with the multi-crore Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Mission fund scam.

By an order dated March 23, 2018, Ramaiah’s plea was dismissed by the High Court.

During the proceedings, the Court took on record a news report published in Dainik Jagran. As per the news report, on the date that Ramaiah surrendered before the trial court, the regular Special Judge (Vigilance) went on leave. Thereafter, Ramaiah surrendered and was granted bail by the judge on the same date.

Looking at the events, Justice Ramesh Kumar opined that the manner in which Ramaiah was granted bail required a deeper probe, as it raised questions of the judiciary.

Justice Kumar thus ordered an inquiry to be conducted by the District Judge, Patna to check the verity of the news report. Calling for a report within four weeks, he also ordered an inquiry into whether on the date of granting bail, the regular vigilance court was on leave due to a genuine cause, or went on leave in a calculated way.

Additionally, the District Judge was also asked to examine the record of cases disposed of by the in charge judge in the last six months.

Justice Kumar took notice of another media report by Republic TV, with respect to corruption in the judiciary and said,

“…a private news channel i.e. Republic T.V. titled “Cash for Justice” had shown its sting operation programme on Television, which was reflective of the fact that in court premises of the Patna Civil Court, demanding and accepting illegal gratification was rampant.”

Justice Kumar claimed that he had taken up the cause orally with the other judges of the High Court, particularly the then Chief Justice, but “nothing was done”.

Nonetheless, after a complaint with respect to the allegations shown in the news report was received on the administrative side by an advocate, the matter was referred to the District Judge for conducting an inquiry, the order states.

Subsequently, the District Judge submitted a report and the matter was placed before the Standing Committee. Contrary to his opinion that an FIR should be lodged in the matter, the Standing Committee eventually decided to await the final report in the matter before proceeding any further.

Taking up the matter on the judicial side on August 28, Justice Kumar directed that an investigation in the case be undertaken by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

“I am of the opinion that further delay in lodging F.I.R. will ensure disappearance of evidences and as such, on judicial side, direction can be given for fair and thorough investigation by an independent agency.

Accordingly, I direct the Central Bureau of Investigation through its Director to conduct an inquiry into entire episode relating to corruption in the premises of the Patna Civil Court shown in news published through Republic T.V. channel and lodge regular case i.e. FIR.”

The order clarified that the inquiry or investigation shall be by an officer not less than the rank of Joint Director and who is not in charge of the Patna zone. While conducting the inquiry, the CBI will be at liberty to examine everything including patronage, if any, the order states.

Justice Kumar also spoke of an incident which took place in 1995 when he was the Standing Counsel for the CBI.

“…during holiday period, petition of some coal mafia was served in my residential chamber and I was told that the learned Advocate had already discussed with the then senior-most Judge. He requested to only accompany him to the residence of the said Judge…There were three anticipatory bail petitions.”

He further adds,

“At 11:00 AM, I visited the residential chamber of the Judge, who was senior most Judge on the date of said holiday, since Hon’ble Mr. Justice D.P. Wadhwa (the then Chief Justice) was out of country. Of course, I failed to get those anticipatory bail petitions dismissed, but succeeded to some extent that those anticipatory bail petitioners were transferred to Patna High Court Ranchi Bench, Ranchi. The said judge was none else but a senior Judge from Allahabad High Court.”

Further stating that corruption in “this High Court” was an “open secret”, Justice Rakesh Kumar added,

“…it is known to everyone that one senior Judge from the Allahabad High Court during Fodder Scam period had got his wife nominated, as Rajya Sabha Member. This was not the end. Again, there was a Judge from Allahabad High Court, who granted bail to an accused, whose record of bail petition was lying in the Chamber of Hon’ble Mr. Justice Akhilesh Chandra (as he then was), who was hearing his bail petition.”

Justice Rakesh Kumar did not mince any words with respect to the condition of the Patna High Court as well.

“It is open fact that the Judges’ bungalows were allotted to number of Judges some time in the year 2017-2018, but actual possession was taken much belatedly. In the meanwhile, at least one newly appointed Judge was constrained to remain in High Court Judges’ Guest House for several months.”

He also brought to notice four instances where allegations of corruption against judicial officers were disposed of without any major consequence.

“At least in one case, relating to one Additional Sessions Judge namely Sri K. P. Singh, who was posted at Patna, against whom, there were serious allegations and indictment against him in judicial side. In the same matter, he was proceeded departmentally. One of the High Court Judge was Inquiry Officer. During inquiry, out of two serious charges, one charge was proved and show cause notice was issued on the point of quantum of punishment. After filing reply of the second show cause, while matter was placed before the Standing Committee for taking decision on the point of punishment for serious charge, one of the senior Member of the Standing Committee stood as a “Rock” to protect him…

…on the next meeting, due to some urgent work, I was out of station and in my absence, the Standing Committee took a decision to impose a minor punishment i.e. “stoppage of one increment with cumulative effect”.”

He added,

“An inference can be drawn that those officers were having protection from the High Court. If after noticing all those facts, only I become an expectator, certainly I can never forgive me.”

Justice Kumar also called out the practice of judges “buttering the Chief Justice”.

“After my elevation as Judge, I started to notice that senior Judges were buttering Chief Justice. Initially, I thought why such action was shown by the senior Judges, but after some time, I could gather that such actions were being taken to get their favourite or caste man elevated as a Judge or do some favour to corrupt judicial officers.”

Justice Kumar has thus urged the Supreme Court Collegium to re-introduce the policy decision of transferring judges out of their Parent High Court after elevation. A copy of his order was directed to be placed before the Chief Justice of India and the Collegium Judges. A copy of the order was also required to be sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Law Ministry.

Read the order passed by Justice Rakesh Kumar:

Justice-Rakesh-kumar-order.pdf
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Read the Patna HC notice:

Patna-HC-notice.pdf
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