Two months after Justice Nirmal Yadav was given a clean chit in a bribery case by the Supreme Court and the Central Government, a Right to Information (RTI) application has revealed that Punjab Governor and Chandigarh administrator General S F Rodrigues, the CBI, the Gokhale committee constituted by Supreme Court and the police, had concluded the contrary, that Justice Yadav had indeed been paid Rs 15 lakh as bribe.
The bribery scam came into light when Justice Nirmal Kaur of Punjab and Haryana High court, reported delivery of Rs 15 lakh at her doorstep on August 13, 2008 by Prakash Kumar, an assistant of former Additional Advocate General of Haryana, Sanjeev Bansal. Justice Nirmal Yadav was implicated in the scandal when the Chandigarh police reported that the parcel was intended for Nirmal Yadav was mistakenly handed over to Justice Nirmaljit Kaur.
While Bansal resigned immediately, Justice Yadav proceeded on leave on “moral grounds” stating that till the investigation came to an end, she would not resume service. In barely nine days Police unravelled the case arresting the key accused, Sanjiv Bansal, Parkash Ram, Nirmal Singh and Rajiv Gupta and procured their mobile call records.
According to documents procured under RTI, Punjab Governor and Chandigarh Administrator Gen S.F Rodrigues, had concluded that Justice Nirmal Yadav was the intended recipient of cash and brought the same to the notice of the then Chief Justice Tirath Singh Thakur of Punjab and Haryana High Court. After communicating with Justice Thakur, Gen Rodrigues wrote to the CBI director on August 26, 2008 asking them to take up the investigation immediately. Adding that, “Due to the ramifications and sensitivities involved, this case can be best investigated now by the CBI. The case involves very highly placed individuals, but there are enough inputs to indicate it will be possible to expeditiously unravel the case.”
The Gokhale Committee, in its 92-page report, said that, “There is substance in the allegations and the misconducts disclosed are serious enough for initiation of proceedings for removal of Justice Yadav.” CBI too made out a case for prosecuting Justice Yadav under the Prevention of Corruption Act, confirming that Justice Nirmal Yadav had received Rs 15 lakh in return for having “favourably decided” a legal case of Bansal at the high court. But despite the seemingly obvious case of bribery, the then Attorney General of India and Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan, overruled inquiry reports of the CBI and the judges' panel and give a clean chit to Justice Yadav and subsequently rejected CBI's request for sanction to prosecute her, saying there was not enough grounds for a case.
In a communication to the CBI director, revealed by RTI, the union ministry of law and justice quoted that, “there is not a shred of evidence to be said that the alleged offences were committed by Sanjiv Bansal, Ravinder Singh and Nirmal Singh in conspiracy with Justice Yadav”.
It added, “The matter has been discussed by the minister for law and justice with the CJI, who had observed that no action was required for the present.”
Justice Nirmal Yadav, who was booked by the Chandigarh Police in an FIR under the Prevention of Corruption Act and 120-B of IPC, in her reply to the show-cause sent by Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, requested the CJI to reject the enquiry report as the probe was lopsided. She said that the Rs. 15 lakh delivered at the residence of Justice Nirmaljit Kaur in Chandigarh on August 13, 2008, was not meant for her and that she was made a scapegoat because of the similarity in their names. She even alleged that a Supreme Court judge and another high court judge were present at Kaur's residence when the money was delivered.
The manner in which Justice Yadav has been absolved of any involvement in the scam, despite concurrent findings by three agencies has provoked jurists, Special public prosecutor Anupam Gupta said, “The case of Justice Yadav is a copybook example of the miscarriage and double standards that pervades the Indian judicial system.” Anupam Gupta had dealt with the case before it was handed over to CBI on August 26, 2008, following the intervention of Chief Justice of India.
Interestingly, Chief Justice of India went by the then Attorney General Milon Banerji's opinion over the in-house panel's findings. Also Attorney General's “no-shred-of-evidence” opinion contradicts the evidence that the CBI and the Gokhale committee had relied upon to nail Justice Yadav, who has been without judicial work since September 2008. Despite the contradictions in the controversial case, on December 31, 2009, CBI filed a case closure report in Chandigarh Court poising it for a quiet burial 16 months after it broke.