Last week, the special Central Bureau of Investigation court here directed that charges be framed against Justice (retd.) Nirmal Yadav, who is better known as the “cash in the bag” judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The CBI had filed a charge sheet against the judge in 2011 and is all set to prosecute her under Section 11 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
At first, the agency sought to prosecute Justice Yadav for allegedly receiving Rs. 15 lakh in 2008 (which was delivered by mistake to another judge’s residence), but during further investigation it says it uncovered even more shocking details of much bigger cash bribes, allegedly received by Ms. Yadav in exchange for giving favourable verdicts.
According to the CBI, in 2006 she quashed an FIR, filed under Criminal Procedure Code Section 482, in a murder case and received Rs. 50 lakh as bribe.
These details are there in the report of the CBI SP, who investigated the matter. They were brought to the court’s notice by the agency’s Special Public Prosecutor Anupam Gupta during arguments on framing of charges.
The contents of the report, which was kept under wraps till now, were also brought to the notice of the former Chief Justice of India, S.H. Kapadia, who in 2010 sanctioned the prosecution of Justice Yadav in the 2008 case.
While interrogating Ravinder Singh — a Delhi hotelier who reportedly arranged for the money to be delivered to Justice Yadav’s residence through his friend Sanjiv Bansal, then an additional advocate general of Haryana — the CBI says it uncovered additional evidence against the judge.
The agency told the court that the other alleged kickbacks received by Justice Yadav were not included in the charge sheet because it could not corroborate Mr. Singh’s disclosures. In other words, the CBI restricted itself to investigating only the 2008 case
Ravinder Singh, the SP’s report says, told the CBI that towards the end of 2005, at the instance of Mr. Bansal, he requested Justice Yadav to quash the FIR against Mahant Chand Nath for the murder of Baba Azad Nath in Rewari. Within days of the charge sheet being listed for relief in the court of Justice Yadav, she threw it out without even mentioning that the charge sheet was filed. In return, Mr. Bansal arranged for Rs. 50 lakh that Mr. Singh gave to Justice Yadav at her official residence in Chandigarh.
The CBI prosecutor, in his arguments before court, referred to the cases mentioned in the report as “very serious and suspicious.”
These, he argued, needed to be investigated independently as the CBI did not have the permission to prosecute Justice Yadav for these matters.
One such case is that of a land dispute relating to a valuable property in Hissar. In 2007, Ravinder Singh told the CBI, Mr. Bansal asked him to use his influence over Justice Yadav to get an ongoing case for the premises, which was being fought for by the Hissar district administration, withdrawn. The CBI probe revealed that the property was bought by a company owned by Rajiv Gupta, an associate of Mr. Bansal, and the latter had during custodial interrogation admitted to being a director in the company. For this, Mr. Bansal allegedly offered Rs. one crore to Justice Yadav, who told Mr. Singh to keep the money ready. When the matter was decided in Mr. Bansal’s favour, the first instalment of Rs. 50 lakh was delivered at her residence, while the judge purportedly collected the second instalment of another Rs. 50 lakh herself in November 2007.
Then again, in 2008, the judge allegedly took Rs .10 lakh for giving a favourable order in the matter of Gurudwara Dera Killeywwala in Rajpura in which Mr. Bansal was counsel for the respondents. The money was reportedly handed over to Justice Yadav at her residence.
The CBI’s report states that the evidence uncovered during the course of investigation raises a legitimate presumption that the accused (Justice Yadav, Ravinder Singh and Sanjeev Bansal) committed criminal conspiracy. Indeed, phone records show that in the six months between February 1 and August 16, 2008 there were some 239 calls between Justice Yadav and Ravinder Singh including, 136 calls on a mobile Mr. Singh gave to her. There were another 200 calls between the judge’s personal security officer, Udaivir Singh, and Ravinder Singh, which indicates the level of proximity between them