The file on the recommendation to transfer Justice Nirmal Yadav of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, who has been given a clean chit in the Rs. 15-lakh cash-at-door scam, to the Uttarakhand High Court has been pending with President Pratibha Patil for more than three months.
The Supreme Court collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan, accepted the Law Ministry’s report that no case was made out for prosecuting Justice Yadav and that there was no evidence of her involvement in the scam. In November last, the collegium recommended that she be transferred immediately.
Even as the file has been pending with the President, the Central Bureau of Investigation sought Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati’s opinion on whether the CJI was approached for sanction for prosecution of Justice Nirmal Yadav in respect of land deals in which she was allegedly involved. Without going into the merits of the issue, Mr. Vahanvati is understood to have informed the CBI that the CJI was not approached with regard to the land deals, but earlier his sanction was sought in respect of the criminal case pending against her.
An inquiry conducted by the Himachal Pradesh government concluded: “There appears no procedural irregularity committed at any level for according permission by the government for purchase of land by Justice Nirmal Yadav and others…” The collegium accepted this report.
In the other scam, it was alleged that Rs. 15 lakh in cash delivered at the home of Justice Nirmaljit Kaur in Chandigarh on August 13, 2008 was actually meant for Justice Nirmal Yadav. However, Justice Nirmal Yadav denied the allegation and said she was being made a scapegoat because of a similarity in the names of the two judges.
Soon after the scam came to light, the CJI appointed a three-judge committee to go into the matter, and she proceeded on leave. The committee, an internal mechanism evolved by the judiciary, concluded that there was prima facie truth in the allegations. The CJI then issued a show-cause to Justice Nirmal Yadav.
In the meantime, the CBI also registered a case under Section 8 (taking gratification to influence public servants) and Section 9 (taking gratification to exercise personal influence) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code. After getting the CJI’s permission, the CBI examined both judges and sent its preliminary report to the former Attorney-General, Milon Banerjee, for his opinion. He concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute Justice Nirmal Yadav. Only thereafter did the collegium give her a clean chit.