Two complaints against the conduct of the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate (Economic Offences), Ernakulam, while hearing the solar scam case, have been lodged with the Registrar of the High Court of Kerala.
K. Surendran, general secretary of the BJP and A. Jayasankar, general secretary of the Indian Association of Lawyers (IAL), petitioned the vigilance wing of the High Court against the magistrate regarding the recording of statements of Saritha S. Nair, an accused in the case. Opposition Leader V.S. Achuthanandan too indicated that he may move the court.
The “procedural flaws” of the magistrate’s court, especially its decision not to record her complaint after listening to her for nearly 20 minutes, had invited the legal fraternity’s criticism.
Commenting on the development, judicial sources said that the magistrate should have recorded the statements of Saritha in the first instance itself when she expressed her desire to make a complaint. Section 2 D of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) defines a complaint as an “allegation made orally or in writing to a magistrate, with a view to his taking action under this code, that some person, whether known or unknown, has committed an offence, but does not include a police report.” The complaint also necessarily need not be a confessional statement made under Section 164 of the code. In any case, the magistrate should have taken down the complaint or asked her to give it in writing in open court, sources said.
Regarding the in-camera proceedings, judicial sources said that courts permitted such proceedings when it dealt with cases involving sexual offences. Such proceedings seek to ensure the privacy of those involved in the case. The courts order in-camera trials on request or suo motu.
However, in such cases, the courts should record those details in the order sheet of the court. The decision should find a place in the court records, sources said.
High Court sources confirmed the receipt of two complaints and said the matter would be placed before the Chief Justice of Kerala for orders.
In his complaint, Mr. Surendran said, “There was absolutely nothing in this case which warranted an in-camera inquiry but the magistrate chose to do so which obviously shows that there was something to be hidden from the public and this conduct also casts doubts in the minds of the public.”
The IAL expressed concern over an order of injunction seeking to restrain a member of the bar from functioning as duly authorised counsel in the case.