The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought three days’ time to examine a July 11 order passed by Karnataka High Court judge, Justice H.P. Sandesh, in which he revealed that he was threatened with transfer for his manner of examining a case linked to the State Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
“We request the learned judge to defer the hearing [in the ACB cases] for a period of three days to enable us to look into the order passed on July 11. List it on Friday,” a Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana observed in its order on Tuesday.
The order came on separate petitions filed by the Karnataka ACB and its top officer, ADGP Seemant Kumar Singh Singh, to expunge adverse remarks made by Justice Sandesh in court about them. They also wanted a stay on the proceedings before his Bench.
Justice Sandesh had called the ACB a “collection centre” and Mr. Singh a “tainted officer”.
In his July 11 order, Justice Sandesh had proceeded to give an account of how he was subjected to a veiled threat of transfer, that too through a sitting judge of the High Court, unless he laid off the ACB and its top officer. Justice Sandesh said the incident had happened during the farewell dinner for a retiring Chief Justice of the High Court.
On Tuesday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State ACB, said the judge should have refrained from passing the July 11 order. He had been apprised that the top court was seized of the ACB pleas. Urging for a stay on proceedings in the High Court, the law officer urged that the case be transferred to another Bench headed by the Acting Chief Justice of the High Court.
He said Justice Sandesh’s observations and directions had ranged from seeking reports on prosecution/closure of cases probed by the ACB since 2016, to summoning confidential service records of the ADGP, all this while considering a regular bail application of an accused in a corruption case.
“The High Court does have the power to monitor the probe in any case, but such a power cannot be invoked while exercising bail jurisdiction,” Mr. Mehta argued.
Mr. Singh’s counsel submitted that his client was not even given an opportunity to be heard. “My ACR [Annual Confidential Report] from 2009 was read in open court. I was not allowed to speak yesterday,” the lawyer said.
The adverse remarks of the judge had seriously dented his reputation. He was deeply hurt, he said.