SOS e Clarion Of Dalit

June 8, 2017

Judges frightened of TRUTH

Filed under: dalit human rights — Nagaraja M R @ 10:28 am

S.O.S   e – Clarion  Of  Dalit  –  Weekly  Newspaper  On  Web 

Working  For  The  Rights  &  Survival  Of  The Oppressed

Editor: NAGARAJA.M.R… VOL.11 issue.23… . 14  / 06 / 2017



JAIL  CJI  Khehar  ,


Traitors  in  Judiciary &  Police  ,


Crimes  by  Khaki


FIRST  Answer  Judges  Police


CJI  Khehar  Answer  ,

Judiciary Does Not Want Any Accountability or Transparency, Allege RTI Activists



The RTI Act has faced resistance from the courts in recent years, especially when information is sought about their functioning as public authorities, a new report says.


The jury is out on whether the judiciary has over the years played the role it ought to while dealing with matters pertaining to promoting transparency in general and the Right to Information (RTI) Act in particular. Legal luminaries and RTI activists alike believe the court’s must play a more supportive role if greater transparency in public life is to be achieved.


recent report titled ‘Tilting the Balance of Power – Adjudicating the RTI Act’ by the Satark Nagrik Sangathan (SNS) and the Research, Assessment and Analysis Group (RaaG), notes that before the RTI law was passed, the judiciary played a seminal role in recognising and furthering peoples’ right to information in India. In fact, as far back as 1975, 30 years before the RTI law was enacted, the Supreme Court adjudged the right to information to be a fundamental right.


Besides being the final adjudicatory authority for the law, the Supreme Court and high courts are also public authorities under the RTI Act. The report, authored by RTI activists Amrita Johri, Anjali Bhardwaj and Shekhar Singh, suggests that the RTI Act appears to be facing resistance from the courts, especially when information is sought about their functioning as public authorities.


Is RTI facing resistance from the judiciary?

In the last ten years, scores of RTI applications have been filed by citizens seeking information from the courts, many of which have required judicial adjudication. Five such matters reached the Supreme Court, three of which were referred to a constitution bench that is yet to be set up. The other two cases were dismissed by the apex court at the stage of admission. About the cases that were dismissed, the RaaG-SNS report notes:

“Unfortunately, these cases raised matters of great public interest but were dismissed by the SC without providing any details or reasons in their orders. One of them sought information using the RTI Act, about cases pending with the Supreme Court in which the arguments had already been heard but orders had been reserved. In the other matter, the applicant sought the total amount of medical expenses of individual judges reimbursed by the Supreme Court, citing a Delhi high court ruling of 2010 which stated that, ‘The information on the expenditure of the government money in an official capacity cannot be termed as personal information’.”


Information denied on appointment of judges

In one of the three cases referred to the constitution bench, an RTI applicant filed a request to the Supreme Court in 2009 seeking a copy of the complete correspondence, with file notings, exchanged between the chief justice of India (CJI) and other concerned constitutional authorities relating to the appointment of Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice A. K. Ganguly and Justice R.M. Lodha as judges of the Supreme Court, superseding the seniority of Justice A.P. Shah, Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice V.K. Gupta. The information sought was denied. When the Central Information Commission (CIC) directed that the information be furnished, the information officer of the apex court appealed directly to the Supreme Court against the order.


CIC order on assets of judges challenged before apex court

In the second case, the RTI applicant asked if any declaration of assets was ever filed by the judges of the Supreme Court or high courts to the respective CJIs. The Supreme Court’s 1997 resolution requires judges to declare to the CJI the assets held by them in their own name, in the name of their spouse or any person dependent on them. The information was denied but the CIC directed that the information sought by the applicant be provided. The CIC order was challenged by the Supreme Court in the Delhi high court, which held that the contents of asset declarations were entitled to be treated as personal information under Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act, but since the applicant only sought to know whether the 1997 resolution was complied with, the sought information should be provided. A three-judge bench of the high court stated:

“…A judge must keep himself absolutely above suspicion, to preserve the impartiality and independence of the judiciary and to have the public confidence thereof.…Accountability of the judiciary cannot be seen in isolation. It must be viewed in the context of a general trend to render governors answerable to the people in ways that are transparent, accessible and effective. Well defined and publicly known standards and procedures complement, rather than diminish, the notion of judicial independence. Democracy expects openness and openness is concomitant of free society. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.’’

This judgement was subsequently challenged by the chief public information officer before the Supreme Court.

In the third case, quoting a media report, an RTI application was filed with the Supreme Court seeking copies of correspondence between the then CJI and a judge of the Madras high court regarding the attempt of a union minister to influence judicial decisions of the said high court. The applicant also sought information regarding the name of the concerned union minister. The CIC, in its order, overturned the decision of the public information officer, which denied the information sought. Bypassing the Delhi high court, the public information officer of the Supreme Court directly moved a petition before the SC challenging the CIC order to disclose information.


Three cases clubbed together

In its order, the Supreme Court, while hearing the case related to correspondence between the CJI and other constitutional authorities about the appointment of judges, clubbed the other two cases with the matter. The apex court order stated that the consideration of a larger bench was required as grave constitutional issues were at stake, including the need to balance the independence of the judiciary and the fundamental constitutional right of citizens to freedom of speech and expression.

The court listed three sets of questions which, according to them, raised substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the constitution:

  • Whether the concept of independence of judiciary requires and demands the prohibition of furnishing of the information sought? Whether the information sought for amounts to interference in the functioning of the judiciary?
  • Whether the information sought for cannot be furnished to avoid any erosion in the credibility of the decisions and to ensure a free and frank expression of honest opinion by all the constitutional functionaries, which is essential for effective consultation and for taking the right decision?
  • Whether the information sought for is personal information and therefore exempt under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act?

The report by RaaG and SNS notes that while the first two sets of questions do seem to relate to constitutional issues, like the adverse impact peoples’ right to information might have on judicial independence, or amount to interference in the functioning of the judiciary, or compromise its credibility, it is not clear how the third question relating to exemption on grounds that it is personal information under section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act raises any constitutional concerns.

The report goes on to highlight the contradictions inherent in the stand taken by courts in these matters by quoting judgements of the Supreme Court in which the court has itself discussed one or more of these issues in relation to the judiciary and other public functionaries and ruled in favour of transparency. For instance, the Supreme Court in Manohar s/o Manikrao Anchule vs State of Maharashtra & Anr in 2012 stated that “It cannot be doubted that transparency is the sine qua non of restraint on abuse of judicial powers. Transparency in decision-making not only makes the judges and decision-makers less prone to errors but also makes them subject to broader scrutiny.”

In Union of India vs Association for Democratic Reforms, 2002, the court directed the Election Commission to call for information from all candidates seeking election to parliament or a state legislature, and from their spouses and dependants, about their assets as, “…there are widespread allegations of corruption against the persons holding post and power. In such a situation, question is not of knowing personal affairs but to have openness in democracy for attempting to cure cancerous growth of corruptions by few rays of light. Hence, citizens who elect MPs or MLAs are entitled to know that their representative has not miscomputed himself in collecting wealth after being elected.”

In PUCL vs Union of India in 2003, while examining the plea that contesting candidates should not be required to disclose the assets and liabilities of their spouses as it would violate the right to privacy of the spouses, the Supreme Court held that the fundamental right to information of a voter and citizen is promoted when contesting candidates are required to disclose the assets and liabilities of their spouses. The SC ruled that when there is a competition between the right to privacy of an individual and the right to information of the citizens, the former right has to be subordinated to the latter right, as the latter serves a larger public interest.

Similarly, to ensure transparency and improve the process of selection of judges in Supreme Court in Advocates-on-Record Association and Ors. vs Union of India in 2015, a five-judge bench laid down broad guidelines for the government of India which was tasked with the responsibility of preparing the Memorandum of Procedure for the appointment of judges. Among other things, the guidelines stated that the eligibility criteria and procedure for selection of judges must be transparent and put up on the website of the court concerned and the department of justice. In addition, they required the provision of an appropriate procedure for minuting the discussions including recording the dissenting opinion of the judges in the collegium.


Supreme Court’s changing position 

Former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi believes the Supreme Court’s stance towards RTI has changed in the past few years.

“If I look at the Supreme Court judgments on transparency and Right to Information before the Act came in 2005 and after the Act, it looks like these are two different countries, two different courts,” he said. Gandhi said he had earlier come out with another report which showed how out of 17 orders of the SC on RTI, in only two it ordered information to be given.

On what could have prompted the change, he said, “I can guess very easily. Before the RTI Act came freedom of speech was fine but nobody questioned the court and nobody tried to find out anything about the courts and people would only say, “I have great faith in the judiciary”. The Right to Information for the first time changed that paradigm. A reporter of any newspaper would be wary of what he writes as far as the judiciary is concerned. But RTI people started asking all kind of inconvenient questions. And some things have come out which have been very unpalatable, to say the least.”

Gandhi said now the judiciary refuses to look at RTI applications that have anything to do with them. “When you are in a public office and right to information is there, people will ask all kinds of things. When I was a commissioner, someone had filed an RTI application asking how much bribe Shailesh Gandhi has taken in the last two years. Now, things like this can be upsetting to people. And in my opinion, that is why they have gone against transparency and RTI Act.”

He said that often the judiciary has been very direct in showing its anger against the RTI. “In the first CBSE judgment, they said RTI should not be allowed to damage the peace, integrity and harmony of India. Such a view is okay for terrorists, but not for citizens. I have noticed over time that everyone in power dislikes being transparent.”

Recalling how the website of the Supreme Court was probably the best which existed under Section 4(1)(b) when he was the chief information commissioner, the first chief of the CIC, Wajahat Habibullah said he also, however, understands that having a website and making disclosures are two different things. “And therefore it is quite possible that in this case the Supreme Court has not been very favourably inclined towards the RTI. It simply means that the current phase of RTI in the courts is one that is defensive. It is not anti-RTI, it is more defensive in terms of the openness of the RTI.”


‘Judiciary too resists accountability’

Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan concurred that the judiciary too does not like transparency when it concerns its own accountability. “Unfortunately we have seen that when it comes to themselves, the courts do not want any accountability or any transparency and this we have seen in all kinds of issues.”

For example, he said, “in judicial appointments, the court shies away from transparency, by and large, some judges are exceptions who ask for it, but otherwise they don’t want transparency. Same thing happens with accountability. They don’t want any accountability and, in fact, they have progressively whittled down their accountability.”

Habibullah believes that at the moment “RTI is facing challenges”.

“When I was there [as the Chief Information Commissioner] my dealing was basically at the high court level as there were few cases in the Supreme Court then. The high court decisions were generally very supportive of the RTI. It was the time of the actual establishment of the jurisdiction or expanse of the RTI and these orders were very constructive. Now it is passing through a different phase where there has been some sort of a retreat,” he said.


‘Public pressure can change the tune’

Bhushan said the judiciary has also very often taken contempt action against people who have written anything against the judiciary or the judges. “Therefore, it is very clear that by and large judges do not want any accountability, nor any transparency. And that is why now that the RTI Act has also been applied to them they are passing judicial orders basically obstructing the orders of the CIC. This is what has happened. Ultimately these matters are for the courts to decide. But once there is sufficient public opinion then probably they will change their tune.”

According to Bhardwaj of SNS, given the extremely progressive orders related to transparency by the Supreme Court before the RTI Act was passed, people expect the judiciary to champion the cause of transparency and expand the scope of the law. “The reluctance of the judiciary to submit itself to the RTI Act is very concerning and we really hope that the constitution bench will give a progressive ruling on the questions referred to it. One of the main objectives of the RaaG-SNS report is to provoke a public debate on the manner in which the RTI Act is being interpreted by the adjudicators and to mobilise public opinion to demand greater openness in the functioning of all public authorities including the courts.”



Dushyant Dave speaks on Pul’s suicide note, Sahara-Birla and Supreme Court



A few weeks ago, a suicide note purportedly written by late Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul raised more than a few eyebrows amongst the legal fraternity. The note, which first surfaced about six months after Pul’s suicide, made some shocking allegations against sitting and retired Supreme Court judges, lawyers and politicians.

Quite astonishingly, the national media, which usually goes into top gear at the drop of a hat, chose to maintain silence over the issue.

And then something interesting happened.

Pul’s widow, Dangwimsai Pul, wrote a letter to Chief Justice of India JS Khehar seeking his permission for the registration of an FIR on the basis of the allegations made in the suicide note, putting the CJI in an awkward situation.

Surprisingly, the letter was converted into a petition and was listed before a bench of Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit.

That is when Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave took up the matter and appeared for Dangwimsai Pul in the Supreme Court. Bar & Bench’s Pallavi Saluja spoke to Dave on this controversial issue and Sahara-Birla judgment.

“I think the developments over the last few weeks have shaken me. I respect judiciary immensely. I love the judiciary. I have been a judge’s son, I have been a lawyer for 38 years and I don’t know where we are heading with this kind of a judiciary. It’s very difficult for people to really get justice, if everything is going to be controlled in one form or the other by executive. It’s going to be really sad.”

Below are the edited excerpts of the conversation:

Pallavi Saluja: Why did you take up this matter? Do you see any truth in the allegations that have been made in the suicide note?


Dushyant Dave: It is not part of my job to decide whether the contents of the suicide note are truthful or not. That is a matter to be investigated by a fiercely independent and absolutely credible institution. Unless that is done, we will never really know.

Secondly, there is no doubt about the fact that a suicide note is equivalent to a dying declaration under Section 32 of the Evidence Act. There is a long line of judgments delivered by the Supreme Court, where they have categorically held that a suicide note can be relied on to prove various offences.

So having said that, the reason why I accepted the brief was because I was appalled by fact that the judges, particularly the Chief Justice of India, were attempting to give a judicial burial to this whole issue and that is what really shook me beyond imagination. Like in the Sahara-Birla judgement, the attempt here was to somehow put the controversy beyond investigation by anybody else in the country.

That was clearly unacceptable to me and therefore, as a lawyer, and as somebody who loves Constitution, the institution of the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Court, I felt that it was necessary for someone to stand up.


PS: What do you make of the timing of the suicide note’s release?


DD: I am not really bothered about the timing of the suicide note. The fact of the matter is that there exists a suicide note; the question is somebody has to take up the matter. Apparently, there is a story going around that Governor Rajkhowa had suggested a CBI inquiry into the suicide note.

Yes, there may have been some delay, but ultimately it is in the interest of the institution that the investigation is made by a fiercely independent institution as early as possible and the truth is brought out. Twice during my arguments, I mentioned before the Court that I am not on the contents of the suicide note, and that I pray that after such investigations the allegations are proved to be wrong, but my argument was that you cannot determine that without having an independent inquiry.

It is too serious a matter; the charges are very, very serious and they really go to the very foundation of the institution (of the Supreme Court), which has now been shaken because of this.
Chief Justice Khehar
PS: In both Sahara-Birla and Pul’s matter questions have been raised regarding the constitution of the bench(es), which heard the matters respectively. Do you see a connection?


DD: There is no doubt about the fact that the Chief Justice Khehar constituted the bench presided by Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy to which the Sahara-Birla matter was assigned, after dismantling two other benches presided by two judges senior to Justice Mishra – Justice Ramana and Justice RK Agrawal.

This was completely unacceptable, because when senior judges are available, you never allow a junior judge to preside, unless the senior judges are sitting in a Constitution Bench or something. This rule was overlooked in the Sahara-Birla matter. Curiously, the two learned senior judges, Justice Ramana and Justice Agrawal, have started to preside again after two or three weeks’ gap. So what was the point of taking away the presiding assignment from them?

In Mrs. Pul’s matter, when the request was made in the letter to simply pass an administrative order, with a clear request that the matter be placed before an appropriate judge, Chief Justice Khehar should never have touched the matter.

He should have simply directed that letter to Justice Chelameswar, who is the number three in seniority, as there were allegations against the Chief Justice and Justice Dipak Misra in the suicide note, or maybe he should have constituted a 5 or 7 judge bench considering the seriousness of the matter, as he did in Justice Karnan’s case.

So sending the matter to Court 13 knowing that he (the CJI) and Justice Goel have been colleagues in Punjab & Haryana High Court and that it would send wrong signals, he still did it.

Regrettably one gets an impression that on the one hand state government and central government were not taking any action on the suicide note and on the other hand Supreme Court was deciding the Sahara-Birla matter giving clean chit to alleged recipients from across political spectrum. This is a very complex but curious co-incidence. The existence of the suicide note and its seriousness were within the knowledge of the concerned persons.
Justice Arun Mishra
PS: But what is wrong in Justice Arun Mishra being allocated the Sahara-Birla case?


DD: I will tell you why I am a little troubled. Justice Khehar was present on December 18 at a function at Justice Arun Mishra’s place where I was also present. Justice Khehar saw that a large number of politicians and ministers from the ruling party, as also the Congress party and others were present. Once you see that the judge has amongst his friends these top politicians, he (the CJI) had to be circumspect and not assign the Sahara-Birla case to a bench presided by that judge.

That was the least expected of him, and he did not do it. On the contrary, he changed benches and reconstituted the Bench to allow Justice Mishra to preside and sent the matter there. (Earlier I had written an article about Justice Mishra’s friendship with the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, one of the recipients of alleged payments in Sahara Diary and his attending Justice Mishra’s nephew’s wedding in Gwalior, away from Bhopal on December 10th, while the matter was actually being heard by him and Justice Khehar.)

There is no doubt about the fact that the Sahara-Birla case was an extremely explosive case. It was so serious that it demanded a 5-judge bench of the senior-most judges of the Supreme Court to hear it.

However, as is evident from the judgment in that case, the approach of the judges shows that they have neither appreciated the seriousness of the matter nor have they really understood the legal position; they have completely forgotten their constitutional obligation.

They have been completely overawed by the fact that the persons against whom allegations have been made, particularly the Prime Minister, are constitutional functionaries. Nobody is above the Constitution. And if the allegations are true, then everybody has to face the music. But the truth of those allegations have to be ascertained by an extremely independent investigation.

My own feeling is that the manner in which the matter was handled and the judgement itself was perhaps to protect the Chief Justice himself, so that no constitutional functionary is proceeded against without cogent material. That is really something which is bothering me deeply.


PS: What was the logic of converting the letter into a writ petition and AK Goel and Justice UU Lalit?


DD: The Supreme Court has laid down one principle of administrative law, which must equally apply to judges – that no man can be a judge in his own cause.

Therefore, there is no doubt in my mind that Chief Justice Khehar committed a gross judicial impropriety by dealing with that letter; and by directing that letter to be converted into a writ petition; and then listing it before a particular bench.

By dealing with it in the manner he did, I think he has raised more doubts about the allegations contained in the suicide note rather than actually giving answers to them.
Justice AK Goel
PS: We understand that during the argument in court, you kept asking for
Justice Goel’s recusal?


DD: I don’t know what Justice Goel wanted to do. I was very clear in my mind that I did not want the judges to deal with the matter because Mrs. Pul had not sought a judicial relief. So, the Chief Justice had no authority to convert that into a petition on the judicial side without her consent.

In this case, I genuinely felt that the Bench was not likely to give justice fairly because of the connection between Justice Goel and the CJI. I am entitled to request him to recuse and I am really shocked that despite repeated requests, Justice Goel refused.


PS: Do you think the independence [of the judiciary] is being compromised?


DD: Well, I am not sure what has happened. But, there is no doubt that something seems to have happened – to try and ensure that a quiet burial is given to two of the most sensitive matters in our public life raises very serious questions, which I don’t think can be answered for a long – long time.


PS: There are also rumours that Mrs Pul has some political ambitions.


DD: Even if she has some political ambitions, there is nothing wrong about it. The fact of the matter is that a former Chief Minister of a state has committed suicide and has left a suicide note that raises very serious allegations against very powerful people. Nobody is saying that the suicide note is correct. But the nation expects that some action must take place. So, an independent SIT, which is monitored by 5 of the senior most judges of the Supreme Court, has to be constituted. Only then can something happen.


PS: And do you see that happening?


DD: I don’t see anything happening in this country, everything can be easily put under carpet. We are not a democracy in the real sense. We are increasingly becoming a banana republic. I am sorry to tell you that not many Seniors are willing to stand up and condemn. Top Seniors, who would otherwise love to issue statements on anything and everything, should have got together and issued a statement condemning Chief Justice Khehar’s conduct in this case. Why is it not happening? I heard rumors that some Seniors are advising the Chief Justice. If that is true, then those lawyers must stop appearing in this court.



Uttarakhand chief justice not elevated “under govt pressure”: Demand to make public dissenting note


Well-known legal rights organization, Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR), has said that Justice KM Joseph’s non-elevation to Supreme Court judge is linked with his “bold decision striking down the imposition of President’s rule by the Centre in Uttrakhand last year.”
Alleging that the decision not to elevate the Uttarakhand chief justice “has been influenced by pressure from the government”, CJAR has demanded that the full text of Justice J Chelameswar’s dissenting note to the collegium objecting to the non-elevation of Justice Joseph be “put in public domain.”

One of the most influential legal rights organization of India, those associated with CJAR include top Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, former former judges PB Sawant and H Suresh, well-known Magsaysay winning writer Aruna Roy, senior right to information activist Nikhil Dey, other senior activists, experts and lawyers.

Says a CJAR, “As a member of the Supreme Court collegium, while Justice Chelameswar has not disagreed with the names of the five other judges that have been proposed for elevation to the Supreme Court, his criticism that Justice Joseph has been sidelined, is right and justified.”
This is the first time in the annals of the Supreme Court collegium that a member has written a dissent note. Normally such views are conveyed orally.

“We regard Justice Jospeh to have had an outstanding record as an independent judge of high integrity and holding secular views. His being sidelined is surprising since his name for elevation to the Supreme Court, was even recommended by the previous collegium headed by Justice TS Thakur”, CJAR insists.
Pointing out that “transparency in the working of public functionaries, both the judiciary and the government, is critical in a democracy”, CJAR says, “It is ironic that there has been complete opacity from both these institutions” about “disclosing a draft of the memorandum of procedure for appointments to the High Court and Supreme Court.”

“The process has been shrouded in secrecy, excluding public participation in this crucial process”, CJAR says, adding, “There have only been leaked media reports and speculations on certain contentious clauses in the memorandum that have been going back and forth between the government and the judiciary.”

Contending that “repeated requests from CJAR for a draft of the memorandum to be shared” have received “no response”, CJAR asks the Supreme Court chief justice JS Khehar to make public the memorandum, which is being how finalised by the judiciary.


Five Questions We Have to Ask Before the Birla-Sahara Payoff Case is Buried Forever – BY PRASHANT BHUSHAN


The time has come for the judges of the Supreme Court to sit together to apply their minds and devise a way for these serious documents to be thoroughly investigated.

Corruption continues to remain one of the most serious problems of our society. Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party won the 2014 Lok Sabha election riding on the back of the anti-corruption campaign and promising a government which would swiftly deal with corruption and the problem of black money. The reality however, seems far from what was promised.

In October 2013, the income tax (IT) department and the Central Bureau of Investigation conducted simultaneous raids at various establishments of the Aditya Birla group of companies. In these raids, cash worth Rs 25 crore was recovered from their corporate office in Delhi along with a large number of documents, note-sheets, informal account books, emails, computer hard disks and the like. The CBI quickly handed all the papers over to the IT department, which did an investigation in this matter. The department questioned the DGM accounts, Anand Saxena, who was the custodian of the cash which was recovered. He said that the cash was received by the company from various hawala dealers, who used to come almost daily or sometimes on alternate days and give Rs 50 lakhs or 1 crore in cash. The IT department also questioned one such hawala dealer whom Anand Saxena had mentioned, and this dealer also admitted that he had been doing that.

Saxena also said that this cash would thereafter be delivered to certain persons, specified by the group president, Shubhendu Amitabh. And apart from himself, four other senior officer – whom he named – were deputed to deliver the cash. Saxena further said that he did not know the purpose behind the cash payments to those persons.

From ‘Gujarat CM’ to ‘Gujarat Alkalis and Chemicals’

Some of the documents noting the cash received and payments made were in the handwriting of Anand Saxena, which indicated Rs 7.5 crores paid to the ministry of environment, with the noting of  “(Project J)” scribbled next to the entry. The documents also showed various other payments for environmental clearances of Birla projects. The dates of these payments could easily be correlated with the environmental clearances obtained for these projects.

The emails recovered from the computer of Shubhendu Amitabh revealed a number of messages which indicated payments to various DRI (Directorate of Revenue Intelligence) officials for the purpose of slowing down/dropping investigations, which the agency was conducting against the under-invoicing of coal exports and other irregularities by the Birla group of companies.

Amitabh’s emails also contained one cryptic entry which said “Gujarat CM 25 crores (12 paid rest ?)”. When he was questioned about this entry, he said that ‘Gujarat CM’ meant ‘Gujarat Alkalis and Chemicals’. When asked as to whether there was any other place where he had referred to Gujarat Alkalis and Chemicals as ‘Gujarat CM’, Amitabh could not answer. He also could not produce any document which could indicate any dealing between Gujarat Alkalis and Chemicals and the Birla group for Rs 25 crores.

The IT department then prepared a detailed appraisal report in which it concluded that the explanations given by Shubhendu Amitabh about the various payments etc. were not believable and that this matter needs to be further investigated. Unfortunately however, the department did not send the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation for investigation under the Prevention of Corruption Act – even though the payments to DRI officials, the environment ministry and ‘Gujarat CM’ etc prima facie, all appeared to have been made to public servants, which constitute offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The CBI would have been the designated investigating agency for this investigation.

It is not surprising that the UPA government of Manmohan Singh – which was in power when the Birla raid and recoveries took place – did not have this matter pursued, because most of the payments mentioned in the diaries were for officials of the UPA government. However, even after coming to power, the Modi government, which obviously was in the know of this IT department investigation, did not pursue the matter. Modi in his election rallies at several times mentioned the “Jayanti tax”, which had to be paid by companies for environmental clearances to then environment minister, Jayanti Natarajan. And any investigation of the recovered papers from Birla would have substantiated that. The reason for Modi’s reluctance to probe the Birla papers can only be attributed to that one entry – of ‘Gujarat CM’ for 25 crores – which any reasonable person would assume referred to him, for he was the ‘Gujarat CM’ at the time the Birla people made their noting.

The Sahara smoking gun

In November 2014, while the Modi government was in office, the IT department raided the Sahara group of companies. In this raid, Rs 137 crore in cash was recovered from the corporate office, along with several computer spreadsheets and note sheets. These recovered documents also showed payments made to public servants. One particular spreadsheet mentioned in detail the dates, amounts and sources from which a total of Rs 115 crore in cash was received during the year 2013 to 2014, with the transactions being on 40 to 50 different days. On the other side was the disbursement of this cash (Rs 113 crore out of this 115 crore, to be precise) to various people. The disbursement details were consummate and exhaustive as they contained the dates, the amounts, the person who was paid the cash, the place where it was paid as well as the person who went and delivered the cash. In this spreadsheet, the largest recipient with nine entries against his name was ‘Gujarat CM Modi Ji’. As per the entries, he was paid a total of Rs 40 crore in nine instalments. The second biggest recipient was the Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, with Rs 10 crore on two dates. There are also payments of  Rs 4 crore to the Chhattisgarh chief minister and a payment of Rs 1 crore to the Delhi chief minister (who was Sheila Dixit at that time), among other people. Other recovered note sheets contain details of payments made in 2010 to various persons.

Each of these documents was seized and signed by the IT officials, two witnesses and an officer of Sahara. However, again, despite the highly incriminating nature of these documents, the IT department, shockingly, did not hand these over for investigation to the CBI under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The IT department appraisal report on this is still not available, but we get a hint on what it concluded on the matter from the order of the Income Tax Settlement Commission, which came thereafter. The Sahara company had moved the Settlement Commission for settling the case with the IT department under Section 245C of the Income Tax Act. One of the issues before the Settlement Commission was whether  or not the payments mentioned in the spreadsheets should be added to the income of Sahara as undisclosed income. The IT department in its statement said that these payments were clearly genuine since (a) these were accounts maintained over a period of time, (b) that the cash received shown in the spreadsheets matched with the ledger entries of MarCom – the Marketing Communication Company of Sahara. This meant that the dates on which cash was withdrawn from MarCom matched the dates and amounts on which the cash is seemed to be received on these spreadsheets from MarCom. And (c) that the explanations given by Sahara – which sought to question the validity of these documents – were contradictory and did not appear to be correct.

It was clear, therefore, that Sahara had not come with clean hands and yet the Settlement Commission absolved Sahara of all criminal liabilities under the Income Tax Act by asking the company to pay tax of a thousand odd crore rupees on their concealed income.

Even more interestingly, this case was decided by the Settlement Commission in record time – in virtually three hearings in less than three months, with the ruling coming on November 10, 2016. It was also settled by just two members of the commission since the third member had been transferred out by the government.

Enter Chowdary the CVC

For a long time, these documents remained buried within the Income Tax department and eventually surfaced sometime towards the end of 2016, which was when I received copies. They showed prima facie offences under the Prevention Of Corruption Act, which needed a thorough investigation in accordance with the Supreme Court judgement of the Jain hawala case, where the recovery of cryptic entries in a diary – which only mentioned initials and amounts paid – was held by the Supreme Court to be enough to merit a thorough court-monitored investigation. It is another matter that despite this ruling,  the CBI in its investigation into the Jain diaries did not examine the assets of the public servants involved and filed the chargesheet only on the basis of the diaries recovered and thereafter this chargesheet was quashed by the Delhi high court on the grounds that diaries by themselves cannot be enough evidence for prosecuting anybody.

When I received the Birla-Sahara documents, I also noticed that the person in charge of  the income tax investigations was K. V. Chowdary, who, at the relevant period was holding the charge of member, investigations, in the IT department. In June 2015, he was appointed by the Modi government as the country’s Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). This appointment was challenged by Common Cause in the Supreme Court on various grounds – of scuttling tax investigations and also being involved in the “Stock Guru” scam, in which IT officials working under him were found to have taken crores in bribes from Stock Guru company in return for favours from the IT investigation department.

As counsel for Common Cause, we then decided to raise the Birla-Sahara papers issue in the pending case challenging the appointment of Chowdary itself, since the IT department’s decision to withhold these documents and not send them to the CBI for criminal investigation constituted a serious dereliction of duty on Chowdary’s part.


Knocking on the Supreme Court’s door

This application was heard in the Supreme Court on November 26, 2016 by a bench of Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice Arun Mishra.

In the hearing Justice Khehar said that these documents do not constitute any evidence for investigation and asked us to come back with better evidence. Just before the next date of hearing, I received the three volume Income Tax appraisal report from the Birla case and on that date I pleaded with the court that I should be given more time to analyse the appraisal report and file additional evidence. The court was reluctant to grant additional time and put up the matter to be heard only two days thereafter. By this time, however, the appointment of a new chief justice was coming close. Justice Khehar was the next in line of seniority but the clearance of his name had still not been given by the government despite his name having been  recommended by the outgoing chief justice. I told the court in the hearing that it would not be appropriate for it to push through with the hearing of this matter at a time when Justice Khehar’s appointment file is pending with the prime minister, since this case also involved investigations into the payments made to the prime minister as well. After showing some resentment and anger, the court reluctantly adjourned the matter to January 11, 2017.

Justice Khehar was sworn in as chief justice on January 4, 2017. On January 11, two senior judges who would normally have headed benches in the Supreme Court were made to sit with even more senior judges and a new bench was created headed by Justice Arun Mishra (who would not otherwise be heading a bench), with Justice Amitava Roy as the puisne judge. The Birla-Sahara matter was sent to this bench. The judges heard the matter at some length, and finally passed an order saying that since these were not regular books of accounts, therefore, in accordance with the Supreme Court judgement in the Jain hawala case, these did not constitute evidence on the basis of which any investigation could be ordered. In particular, they said that high constitutional functionaries cannot be subject to investigation on the basis of such loose papers. They also used the order of the Settlement Commission to say that the Settlement Commission did not find any proof of these documents being genuine and hence they did not represent the true state of affairs.

A little later, we discovered that while this case was being heard by Justice Arun Mishra along with Justice Khehar, Justice Misra had celebrated the wedding of his nephew from his official residence in Delhi as well as his residence in Gwalior. We were informed of this by Dushyant Dave, former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, who had also attended the wedding reception. He stated that a large number of BJP leaders were present at the event. A photograph of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, attending the reception at Gwalior also appeared in a newspaper. This is significant because Chouhan was one of the alleged recipients of money in the Sahara spreadsheets – the very matter Justice Mishra was considering in court.

The Supreme Court has laid down a code of conduct which says that judges should maintain a degree of aloofness, consistent with their status – which means that they should obviously not socialise with politicians whose cases are likely to come up for hearing before them. It also says that judges should not hear and decide cases involving their friends and relatives. Putting these two together, it is obvious that if a judge invites politicians for personal functions at his residence, it can be safely assumed that these politicians are his personal friends and that the judge must not hear and decide cases involving them.

Kalikho Pul’s suicide note, the missing link

Shortly after the dismissal of our application, The Wire on February 8, 2017, made public the 60-page suicide note of the late Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Kalikho Pul. Kalikho Pul committed suicide on August 9, 2016, barely three weeks after he was unseated by a judgment of a constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Khehar and Justice Dipak Misra. In his suicide note, which was found with his hanging body, and signed and initialled on every page, Pul details the alleged corruption of various politicians as well of persons closely related to senior members of the judiciary. In particular, the note shows that he is especially anguished at the corruption of the judiciary. He says that prior to the Supreme Court’s judgment in the case, which quashed president’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh and removed him from office, a demand of Rs 49 crore was made for a favourable judgement by Justice Khehar’s younger son Virendra Khehar. He also mentioned that another demand of Rs 37 crores was made by Aditya Mishra, described as the brother of Justice Dipak Misra, for a favourable judgement.

This suicide note contained a number of very serious allegations of corruption which obviously needed investigation, for which Pul’s eldest wife, Dangwimsai Pul, had been making requests to the government. However, the note remained uninvestigated and its copies were kept tightly under wraps and not made available to anybody.

The then governor of Arunachal Pradesh, J.P. Rajkhowa, himself went on record to say that he had recommended a CBI investigation into the very disturbing charges made in Pul’s suicide note. However, it still remained uninvestigated. And it was only in early February that a copy of this suicide note was obtained and published by The Wire, which published this note in the original Hindi and in an English translation, after redacting the name of the judges mentioned in the note. The unredacted note was thereafter published by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) in the interest of transparency and to prevent the spread of rumours about the identities of the redacted names.

The questions that remain

The manner in which the Supreme Court buried the Birla-Sahara diaries investigation and the manner in which the government suppressed the suicide note of Kalikho Pul and did not order any criminal investigation into the matter, raise several disturbing questions:

  1. Was Chief Justice J.S. Khehar aware of the Kalikho Pul suicide note and that this note mentioned his name, thus raising allegations about a cash for judgment scam?
  2. Was Pul’s suicide note the reason that Chief Justice Khehar transferred the case deliberately to a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra?
  3. Was Justice Khehar aware of Justice Arun Mishra’s close ties with the BJP leaders?
  4. Did the proximity of Justice Arun Mishra to the BJP – and in particular to some of the people specifically mentioned in the Birla-Sahara diaries as a recipient of black money (such as Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, have a bearing on the decision to finally not order an investigation?
  5. Was the Kalikho Pul suicide note used as an instrument by the government to put pressure on the judges hearing the Birla-Sahara case?
  6. Did the Modi government decide to ignore Kalikho Pul’s suicide note (despite the fact that it contains serious charges of corruption against Congress leaders and the two senior most judges of the Supreme Court) so long as the judiciary does not order an investigation into the Birla-Sahara payoffs ?

It is a fundamental principle in law that even a reasonable apprehension of bias in the minds of the litigants constitutes a violation of natural justice and renders the judgment a nullity. The content of the documents recovered in the Birla-Sahara raids as well the contents of the Kalikho Pul suicide note are amongst the most lethal revelations of political corruption in the country and they raise questions about the highest constitutional positions in our country – the prime minister and the chief justice of India. In hardly any case does one obtain documentation which mentions in such detail, the payments made of large sums of money to political personalities and officials. The Kalikho Pul suicide note, in particular, is like a dying declaration and that too of a chief minister, which must be treated very seriously in law because of the jurisprudential maxim ‘nemo mariturus presumuntur mentri’ i.e. a man will not meet his maker with a lie in his mouth.

The people of India have known for a long time the pervasive and rampant corruption in the polity. Narendra Modi claimed to be above all this, but the Birla and Sahara documents suggest otherwise. The Kalikho Pul suicide note has shaken the faith of the people in the integrity of the highest levels of our judiciary. Burying the Birla-Sahara documents and the Kalikho Pul suicide note without investigation will not make the public suspicion go away. In fact, it would only strengthen those suspicions and irredeemably erode the fate of the people in the integrity of Modi and the judiciary. It is imperative, therefore,  that the contents of these documents are subjected to thorough and credible investigation. In fact, they pose one of the most serious challenges in independent India for the judiciary itself.

The time has come for the judges of the Supreme Court to sit together to apply their minds and devise a way for these serious documents to be thoroughly investigated. Nothing less than this is going to the restore the shaken faith of the people of this country in the highest political and judicial offices of this country.


Supreme Court  averse to Transparency

By M.J.Nedumpara

While the government often comes under fire for not effectively implementing the RTI Act, few have noticed that India’s highest court violates the Act routinely, and with an impunity that makes the government’s evasion of the RTI Act seem benign.

Consider the following:

  • On 20th February 2008, Satnam Singh, a prisoner in Ludhiana’s Central Jail sent a Right to Information (RTI) request to the Supreme Court (SC) asking for a copy of its guidelines on police reforms. The Public Information Officer (PIO) of the SC denied the request and referred Singh to the SC website. Singh filed a first appeal pointing out that as a prisoner, he had no access to a computer, and that, by not sending him the information, the SC was denying him his right. Hearing the appeal, the Registrar, SC too denied the request, now asking him to apply under the Supreme Court Rules 1966, instead of the RTI Act.
  • On 10th November 2007, Subhash Chandra Agrawal filed an RTI request with the SC asking for information concerning declaration of assets by Supreme Court Judges, among other things. The PIO denied the request, claiming he did not hold the information. Agrawal filed a first appeal asking that his application may be transferred to the Public Authority holding the information. The Registrar asked the PIO to re-consider the request, but he denied the information again. Agrawal moved the Central Information Commission (CIC) which in January 2009, asked the PIO to furnish the information[PDF].The SC challenged this order twice before the Delhi High Court (HC) even as it made some information about judges’ assets public on its website, but the HC upheld the CIC’s ruling.
  • In 2007, N. Anbarasan filed an RTI request before the Karnataka High Court (HC) for information pertaining to the scrutiny and classification of writ petitions, among other things. The PIO denied the information and asked Anbarasan to apply under the Karnataka HC Act and Rules. Anbarasan approached the Karnataka Information Commission (KIC), which ruled in his favor. The PIO challenged the KIC’s order before the HC, which quashed it. Subsequently, AKM Nayak, the State Chief Information Commissioner, and a former Additional Chief Secretary, appealed against the HC ruling before the SC. The SC not only dismissed the appeal but fined Nayak 1 lakh rupees for “wasting public money for satisfying their ego.”[PDF]

Although the SC frequently agonises over governments’ lack of transparency, its own Registry has steadfastly resisted yielding information under the Act. In the past decade of the Act’s existence, the SC has fought many RTI applicants tooth and nail, forcing them to the stage of second appeal. Where the CIC has ruled in favor of the applicants, the SC has typically challenged its decisions before the Delhi HC.

The SC has fought these battles not for some significant intrusion of transparency, but for routine matters such as providing pendency figures: for example, the applicant who sought this information in 2009 had to wait until 2014 just to get the Delhi High Court to rule that the  [PDF] SC may provide the information.

I was unaware of the SC’s hostility towards the RTI Act, until two years ago, when I called the office of the Assistant Registrar & PIO to confirm the address where I should send an RTI request. For my research, I wanted a copy of the affidavits filed in a public interest litigation (PIL) heard by the SC between 1999 and 2004.

The official who answered my call wouldn’t identify himself, and asked me if I was party to the case. When I answered no, he said, “We do not provide copies of the judicial record to non-parties,” and hung up. In all my experience of seeking information under the RTI Act, never before had an officer declined to provide information so transparently. I called back to ask how might one access judicial records. The official asked me to look up SC Rules 1966.

RTI Act vs Supreme Court Rules

As I found out after reading about several RTI cases involving the SC, referring applicants to its own rules is a significant tool deployed by the SC to keep the RTI Act at bay. Order XII, Rule 2 of the SC Rules 1966  [PDF] says:

“The Court, on the application of a person who is not a party to the case, appeal or matter, may on good cause shown, allow such person search, inspect or get copies of all pleadings and other documents or records in the case, on payment of the prescribed fees and charges.”

In several ways, this rule gives the SC greater powers to withhold information from citizens, vis-à-vis the RTI Act. Unlike the RTI act:

  • The rule insists on the applicant providing a reason, and makes the availability of information contingent upon “good cause shown.”
  • It prescribes no time limit within which information is to be provided.
  • It lists no penalties for delaying or failing to provide the information.
  • It has no mechanisms for appeal.

These inconsistencies have to be resolved in favour of the RTI Act as per the non-obstante clause provided in Section 22 of the RTI Act. Yet, I found that the SC has been maintaining that it can deny RTI requests, and limit citizens to the SC Rules.

The SC, represented by its Assistant Registrar and Registrar has been relying on two ruses. First, as per the SC Rules, it was “the Court” [PDF] which could take a decision on admitting requests to access judicial records and the humble Registrar and the humbler Assistant Registrar could scarcely usurp the authority of “the Court.” Second was the ruse that the RTI Act, under Section 6(3), allowed Public Authorities to frame rules to access information and the SCR were Supreme Court’s Rules to address RTI. By this logic, the Supreme Court had framed rules in 1966 itself anticipating the RTI Act, which came after 40 years.

The Role of the CIC

The dispute over RTI and SC Rules came before the CIC as early as 2006 – a year after the passage of the Act – in the case of Manish Khanna vs. The Supreme Court of India. [PDF] The appeal was heard by former bureaucrat and then Chief Information Commissioner, Wajahat Habibullah. Ignoring the four fundamental inconsistencies listed above, Habibullah startlingly ruled that there was “no inherent inconsistency” between the Act and Order XII Rule 2. In his view, Rule 2 merely provided an “alternative procedure” to access the information without denying it in any way – ignoring the “on good cause shown” condition.

With this as the foundation, he ruled that the Rule 2 was a “special enactment,” not superseded by a general law enacted later. This ruling established the precedent by which the CIC has consistently ruled in favour of the SC Rules 1966 against the RTI Act.

By my rough calculation, the SC’s refusal to provide information about judicial records under the RTI Act has come before the CIC nearly 50 times in the last ten years – this is just counting the cases which have been decided by the CIC; many more await a hearing. Keeping in mind that not every applicant has the time, resources and the skills to draft first and second appeals, one can say that a very large number of RTI requests are being summarily denied by the SC each year – conservatively speaking about 20 annually. Thus, on the back of this ruling, the SC Registry has found a third ruse to deny information: citing the precedent set by Habibullah’s ruling.

The only exception to this has been a decision in 2011 by Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, who observed that Order XII curtailed the fundamental right of citizens to free information because of the aforementioned inconsistencies. He ruled [PDF] that the PIO must provide information subject to the provisions of the RTI Act, and that it was up to applicants to decide whether they wished to seek information under the RTI Act or the SC Rules.

The SC instantly moved the Delhi HC against this ruling, where Justice S. Muralidhar immediately stayed the matter and, further, restrained the CIC from hearing matters on similar questions. The case remains pending before the HC. Perhaps to do away with the criticism that rules framed in 1966 could scarcely be said to address a landmark law enacted in 2005, the Supreme Court revised its rules in 2013. Under SC Rules 2013, issued in August 2014, Order XII Rule 2 has become Order XIII Rule 2 – with no meaningful difference for the information-seeker.

Seeking information

Despite the nameless SC officer telling me outright that they will not provide me with copies of the affidavits I was seeking, I decided in January 2014 to file my RTI request anyway. For good measure, I requested the same information under Order XII, Rule 2 as well. It would be one thing if the SC was providing information to citizens under its own rules, but even that is not the case, as I found out, and as others have experienced too [PDF].

The PIO denied my RTI request and asked me to approach the Court under Order XII Rule 2, which I had already done. This second request got no reply for over a month, at which point I followed up with the SC over the phone. After several evasive conversations, an officer finally informed me, again, that they would not release the information to me. When I asked the officer for her name so that I may state this position in my first appeal, she declined and hung up.

I eventually received a reply to my request under Order XII, Rule 2. The Assistant Registrar (Copying) now insisted that I apply under Order XII, Rule 2 read with Order X Rule 6(1), i.e., I present my application for information in person at the filing counter of the Court. This additional hurdle was entirely new, as the SC had not mentioned it before the CIC. Moreover, it is entirely inconsistent with the RTI Act because it limits the availability of information only to those who can make their way to the filing counter of the SC – not the easiest of tasks for most citizens, particularly the vast majority of Indians who do not live in Delhi.

I filed a first appeal before the Registrar, pointing out that SC had refused information through both the routes, and invented new hurdles to access information. The Registrar found my appeal “to be without any merit” and dismissed it. I filed a second appeal before the CIC in July 2014, which is yet to be scheduled for hearing.

In my experience of filing RTI requests with multiple public authorities, no government body comes close to the SC in terms of contempt towards RTI applications. This attitude seems to be pervasive in the higher judiciary. The summary denials, fighting ordinary applicants before the CIC, and even hauling them before the Delhi HC suggests that as far as India’s higher judiciary is concerned, transparency is good for others, not for itself.



edited , printed , published & owned by NAGARAJA.M.R. @ : LIG-2 / 761 , HUDCO FIRST STAGE , OPP WATER WORKS OFFICE , LAKSHMIKANTANAGAR ,HEBBAL ,MYSORE -570017 INDIA     

 cell : 91 8970318202        

home page:  , ,  , , ,    

Contact  : ,   ,




Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: