The corruption, permeating the judicial system of our country, had come under the spotlight in yet another exposure of bribery to a High Court Judge. The scam was revealed through a case of mistaken identity, when a package of Rs 15 lakhs, was mistakenly delivered to the residence of one Nirmaljit Kaur, a High Court judge, on August 13th, 2008. Following a police investigation into the matter, it had turned out that the package was meant for one Nirmal Yadav, another judge of the Uttarakhand High Court. The package was sent to the said person by one Ravinder Singh Bhasin, a hotel businessman based in Delhi, and the package had been delivered to the wrong addressee. CBI was vested with the inquiry into the matter. The charge sheet furnished by the CBI against Nirmal Yadav, under sections 11 and 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, Section 1208 (criminal conspiracy), Section 193 (false evidence), Section 192 ( concocting false evidence ), Section 196 (using false evidence) and Section 199 (false testimony), was filed by CBI on 4th March 2011. But CBI was a day late, as Yadav had already retired a day before from her position as a judge of the Uttarakhand High Court. CBI’s initial submission of a concluding report highlighting the fact that, lawsuit in the said case had been demurred, was found unacceptable by the CBI Special Judge.CBI had sought a Presidential intervention then, and the President ratified a lawsuit against Yadav on March 1st, 2012. Yadav was compelled to appear before a CBI special court, where she was sanctioned a bail, against a bail bond of Rs 25,000, after the conclusion of the hearings, on August 27th, 2012. Other than Yadav, the five more individuals were indicted in this case, namely Delhi based hotel businessman Ravinder Singh Bhasin, Rajiv Gupta (businessman, Chandigarh), Nirmal Singh and Sanjeev Bansal (advocate).

Further proceedings by the Special CBI court against Yadav:

There seems to be little reprieve for Yadav, as per the announcement of decisions made by the CBI Special Court on November 11th, 2013, to go forth and press charges against Yadav, and all other individuals indicted in this case. While emphasizing the fact that, the court will not be influenced by the revised pleas furnished by Yadav in the Punjab and Haryana High Courts, the CBI Special Court had issued a mandatory summon notice to all the individuals, including Yadav, to appear before the CBI Special Court hearing scheduled for November 26th, 2013. On September 13th, 2013, Yadav had submitted revised pleas to the Punjab and Haryana High Courts, including the detailed trial report of the case till date. The High Court, however, retained only the photocopies of the trial reports, and had turned in the original documents to the CBI special Court. Special CBI Judge Vimal Kumar had expressed his intentions of pressing charges against Yadav and the others, indicted in the case under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Also, it was clarified that in the event of non standing stay order from the High Court, the CBI Special Court is bestowed with the power of pressing charges against the six individuals, indicted in the bribery case. The Special Court also made it clear that, the accused have been given enough time to acquire a stay order on the CBI Special Court proceedings from the High Court, in case the accused are dissatisfied with the rulings of the Special Court.
Almost two years after the furnishing of the charge sheet by the CBI, against Yadav, the CBI Special Court had taken the decision of prosecuting the six individuals, impeached in the bribery case. However, even before the CBI Court could make its move, Yadav had filed pleas with the High Court chasing the issue of an extirpation of the CBI Special Court’s instructions. Justice Sanghvi had given the petition a consideration and had declared that the case would be given a hearing within a three months period. But, much to the dismay of Yadav and the five other accused, CBI Special Judge Vimal Kumar had passed a verdict on July 31st, 2013. The 63 page verdict clearly indicated of the ‘overwhelming evidence’ against Yadav and the five other indicted in the bribery case, and dismissed their stance of defense as baseless.

Proceedings at the High Court adjourned:

The August 12th, 2013, High Court proceedings against Yadav were suspended, as Yadav abstained from appearing before the court, citing medical issues. With the absence of the primary accused, the court proceedings had to be adjourned for the day. While all the other co – accused were present, Yadav was absent. As explained by Yadav’s defending attorney, “She is suffering from lumbar spondylosis and is taking physiotherapy treatment, as she is still not fit to travel long distance”. Pertaining medical reports were furnished, seeking a dispensation from appearance in Court on the particular date. CBI Special Public Prosecutor Anupam Gupta vehemently opposed the medical applications, as evident from his statement, “The plea submitted of ill health is a sham…..it is a pretence. It is exceptional and extraordinary for Yadav not to appear on the date of framing of charges.” Calling for an inquiry against the status of the doctors who had allegedly framed the medical reports for Yadav, Gupta further added, “Yadav is acting as if she is above the law. As a former High Court Judge, she is not expected to obstruct justice in this manner”. The Court, however, accepted Yadav’s explanation of absence and had postponed the hearing date to August 27th, 2013, with a notice instructing mandatory presence of all the accused on the later hearing date. It is to be mentioned here that, Yadav had personally appeared in court only once (August 27th, 2013), and had been evading personal presences in court on more than a dozen occasions, citing the same medical reasons.

High Court Verdict comes as a reprieve for Yadav:

On the 13th of September, the High Court Bench of Justice, Chaired by N K Sanghi had passed the verdict that the case of Yadav will be heard, after a period of three months. The verdict came as a response to the plea submitted by Yadav, pertaining to the issues of the CBI Special Court attempting to press charges against her, on grounds of bribery and corruption. The petition was, once again, accompanied by a complete record of the trials till date. The plea submitted by Yadav, underlined the fact that the CBI Special Public Prosecutor had failed to establish a direct link between the supposed bribe of Rs 15 Lakhs and Yadav. As further mentioned in the said petition, “The CBI court took note of all contentions raised by the prosecution, but failed to record that fact conceded by CBI Special Public Prosecutor. The entire approach of the trial court is illegal, erroneous and untenable in the eyes of the law”. The High Court has accepted the petition and all the accompanying documents.

Conclusion:

With the verdict of the High Court, all legal proceedings against Yadav stays in cessation, till the High Court passes its ruling, based on the petition filed by Yadav. The High court verdict comes as sheer dismay to the senior attorney and the CBI Special Public Prosecutor Anupam Gupta. He declared that the High Court’s judgment is an example of the ignorance of the corruption, permeating the judicial system of the nation. Underlining the fact that, the High Court’s verdict is a shocking instance of double standard which any Court cannot possibly afford, Gupta commented, “Would the High Court have passed this order if the principal accused have not been a former High Court Judge”?
Nirmal Yadav retired as a justice of the Uttarakhand High Court. An old veteran of the judicial system of our country, Yadav knows the legal loopholes like the back of her hand, as evident from the last verdict of the High Court. While the trial of the CBI Special Court scheduled for November 26th, 2013, stays suspended, Yadav will effectively use the time to pull all the strings necessary to get out of this one. Given the corrupt judicial system of our country, it is definitely not an easy task to nail an ex – Justice of the High Court, even for the CBI Special Trial Court!