Action stayed against 27 judges in land case

August 13, 2015 02:37 am | Updated March 29, 2016 02:50 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the orders passed by the Gujarat High Court to proceed against 27 sitting and retired judges of the apex court and the High Courts in connection with the allotment of residential plots to them in 2008.

A three-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, said the High Court Bench was in a “mortal hurry”.“Seems HC Bench was in a mortal hurry… this kind of hurry was not needed,” Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu, who headed the Bench, said.

In two back-to-back hearings on August 10 and 11, the High Court Bench, headed by Acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court V.M. Sahai, issued notices to the judges.

They include Justice Anil R. Dave of the Supreme Court; Chief Justices of the Bombay and Orissa High Courts M.S. Shah and D.H. Waghela, respectively; and eight judges of the Gujarat High Court.

B.J. Shethna and K.R. Vyas had written to the High Court, where they had served as judges, that they had not been allotted plots by the Niti Bagh Judges Cooperative Housing Society in the upscale Sola and Gota areas in Ahmedabad. They had sought transparency in the allotments.

On August 10, a Bench of Justices Sahai and R.P. Dholaria suo motu converted the letter to a public interest litigation petition. The Bench then went on to implead, and issue notice to, the former and sitting judges.

The Bench refused requests made by the Advocate-General, Gujarat, for time to study the documents, but framed legal questions and referred the matter to a larger Bench to start hearing from Wednesday.

“This is not good for the judicial institution. The Gujarat High Court Bench did not even grant time to the State Advocate-General to study the documents in the case ... this was the biggest flaw ... and what was the tearing hurry,” Harish Salve, appearing for Justice (Retd) Dhiren Arvind Mehta, a former Gujarat High Court judge who was allotted a plot, submitted in the Supreme Court.

“Overnight notices” were issued to the judges to explain their allotments, Mr. Salve said.

The Supreme Court Bench asked Mr. Salve to delete the names of the judges from the petition while issuing notice to the State government and the local authorities.

The petition asked why seven years after allotment in 2008, the outgoing Chief Justice (Justice V.M. Sahai), on the eve of his retirement, had raised questions by converting a letter addressing the “personal grievances” of two former judges into a PIL plea. The petition said the High Court Bench heard the case despite Advocate-General asking the two judges on the Bench to recuse themselves from the case.

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