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The Punjab and Haryana High Court has had a history of hushing up cases originating from its judicial chambers, so the Justice Nirmal Yadav case evokes a sense of deja vu. Skeletons pop out with sickening regularity but very little action is ever taken. A few months before the cash-for-judge scam, the Vigilance Bureau submitted to the Punjab governor and the chief justice of the high court six reports between April 30 and July 25, ’08, which detailed serious malpractices in appointments in the judiciary, manipulations of the high court registry, fixing of cases and similar malpractices in the lower courts. The governor handed over the explosive material to the home ministry, while the then HC chief justice Vijendra Jain, sent it to the Chief Justice of India.
The Vigilance Bureau had stumbled on the goings-on while investigating a criminal case which required that the telephones of two people in Punjab be tapped. The names of two judges of the high court—Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Justice H.S. Bhalla—and an additional district judge of Ferozepur, J.S. Bhinder, figured in the reports signed by Vigilance Bureau director Sumedh Singh Saini. The bureau is still awaiting sanction to proceed in the matter.
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Law less The Vigilance Bureau report citing the illegal goings-on in the HC
What the bureau reports uncovered besides the alleged role of touts, advocates and judges in fixing cases and “manipulating” the registry of the high court, was the “going rates” for various tasks. For instance, according to one of the tapped conversations, Rs 15 lakh was the rate for getting an immediate stay, of which Rs 10 lakh would go to “wade sahib”. To get a favourable verdict, a sum of Rs 25 lakh was considered kosher. To manipulate the HC registry to get a particular case before a particular bench, Rs 25,000 is the rate. Rates discussed and quoted for appointments to the post of additional district judge range from Rs 35-50 lakh.
Curiously, as soon as Justice Jain retired, the reports went missing from the high court. When the new Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur wanted to look at them, he had to ask for a fresh copy from the Punjab government.