M A I N   N E W S

Magistrate suspended 
CBI books 3 advocates in warrants against President case
Tribune News Service & UNI

Ahmedabad/New Delhi, January 29
The Gujarat High Court today suspended the Metropolitan Magistrate who had allegedly issued bailable warrants against President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Chief Justice of India V.N. Khare, sitting judge B.P. Singh and former chief of the Supreme Court Bar Association R.K. Jain after allegedly receiving a bribe of Rs 40,000.

The High Court officials arrived at 4.45 p.m. at the office of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate N.B. Ranekshah and handed over the suspension order for magistrate M.S. Brahamabhatt. The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate then personally summoned the magistrate concerned to his cabin and handed over the order to him.

Yesterday, senior counsel Harish Salve had made this stunning revelation before a three-judge Bench headed by the Chief Justice hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a private TV channel.

Mr Salve said the TV channel had exposed this case of judicial corruption in a video tape made through a sting operation. Along with the PIL, the petitioners had also filed the original arrest warrants dated January 15 and returnable by February 17, issued by Court No 10 of Metropolitan Magistrate, he added.

The CBI today filed a case against three Gujarat advocates on charges of complicity in the issuance of bailable warrants for President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Chief Justice V.N. Khare, sitting Judge B.P. Singh and former Supreme Court Bar Association President R.K. Jain by a Metropolitan Magistrate in Ahmedabad. A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice Mr V.N. Khare directed the CBI to begin the investigation in the case immediately.

In an apparent warning to judiciary below, the Chief Justice said “a time has come to take strict action otherwise nothing would remain (in the judicial system)”.

“Look at what is happening. You can obtain an arrest warrant for Rs 40,000,” a visible anguished Chief Justice said, while presiding the Bench having Mr Justice S.B. Sinha and Mr Justice S.H. Kapadia as the other judges.

While ordering the handing over of the video cassette of the sting operation and other relevant documents of the Metropolitan Magistrate’s court to the CBI, which were deposited with apex court registry, the Bench also issued notices to the Union Home Ministry, Law Ministry, Gujarat Government and Registrar General of Gujarat High Court to submit their replies as to how the integrity of judiciary should be protected.

The court asked Attorney-General Soli J. Sorabjee, who accepted notices on behalf of the Centre, to come up with suggestions on next hearing as to how the judicial system could be improved.

Former Solicitor General Harish Salve described the incident as a serious blow to the people’s faith in the judicial system. He appeared for Zee Telefilms, which brought the matter to the court after its reporter Vijay Shekhar had carried out the sting operation.

In the expose a fictitious complaint was presented before the Metropolitan Magistrate in the name of one Suresh Jethalal Sangvi in which names of President, CJI, Justice B.P. Singh and former Supreme Court Bar Association President R.K. Jain were mentioned as accused in a cheating case. But their names were mentioned without designation in full, not in the short form as they are popularly known.

In the purported complaint, it was alleged that these persons had backed out of their commitment to deliver gold to Sangvi after getting payment from him as had been promised in a deal and thus had committed the offences under Section 420 (cheating) and 406 (breach of trust) of the IPC.

The Metropolitan Magistrate, without verifying the antecedents of the named accused persons, had blindly signed the warrant orders, and the certified copies of the same were delivered by his court to the reporter later on the payment of another Rs 2,000, Zee’s counsel alleged.

The Court also issued notice to three local lawyers — Narender Chaudhary, Harish Bhawaniwala and Iqbal Katia — who allegedly had acted as middlemen on behalf of the Metropolitan Magistrate, and also to Sanghvi, seeking their replies by next date.

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