In a letter addressed to Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice S.J. Vazifdar, the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) has urged a quick decision on the probe into allegations against Orissa High Court Judge Indrajit Mahanty.
A three member in-house committee had been constituted by the former Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur to look into the allegations against two sitting Judges of Orissa High Court – Justice Mahanty and Justice Sangam Kumar Sahoo.The other members of the enquiry committee are Justice T. Vaiphei, Chief Justice of Tripura High Court and Justice Arun Tandon, judge of Allahabad High Court.
CJAR’s letter now makes reference to news reports according to which the enquiry has been stalled in view of the name of a senior Supreme Court Judge having cropped up in connection with the allegations against Justice Mahanty. This has been objected to by the CJAR.
“We feel that there is no reason why the mere cropping up of the name of this senior Supreme Court judge, should in any way stall the inquiry against Justice Mahanty. The charges against Justice Mahanty must be decided on their merits irrespective of his connection with the Supreme Court judge,” the letter states.
It then goes on to express its views on the material available against the Judge, opining, “It is clear from a review of the material that the charges against him are very serious and backed with adequate documentary evidence. The allegations against Justice Mahanty relate to acts of grave judicial impropriety and conflict of interest, tantamount to a clear breach of judicial ethics.”
The letter lists down the allegations against Justice Mahanty, who has been accused of judicial impropriety. It was alleged that Justice Mahanty was running a hotel business, which he started after his elevation as a Judge of the Orissa High Court. This has been alleged to be a violation of the code of conduct for a Judge – “Restatement of values of Judicial Life” – point 13 of which states, “13. A Judge shall not engage directly or indirectly in trade or business either by himself of in association with any other person. (Publication of a legal treatise or any activity in the nature of a hobby shall not be construed as a trade or business).”
He has purportedly been involved in various irregularities with respect to the construction and running of this hotel as well. As per the letter, while the permit was for the construction of a three storeyed building, the Hotel stands as a five storeyed construction.
Besides, the letter also alleges a conflict of interest in an order by a Bench comprising Justice Mahanty and Justice D.P. Choudhary, allowing employment of women for musical performances in bars and liquor serving restaurants across the State.
“This is a case of clear conflict of interest and Justice Indrajit Mahanty should have recused himself from hearing the matter. This is because, at the relevant time, Justice Indrajit Mahanty owned hotel, ran a dance bar where women were employed for musical performances, which was a clear violation of the Bihar and Orissa Excise Act, 1915. After a sting video of the dance bar being run in Justice Mahanty’s hotel went viral on social media, he was forced to close down the bar,” CJAR points out.
It, therefore, demands a speedy determination by the in-house committee, so that follow-up action by way of impeachment proceedings, etc. can be taken.