In-House Inquiry Against Orissa HC Judges: Madras HC CJ Indira Banerjee To Head Probe After Justice S.J. Vazifdar’s Retirement

In-House Inquiry Against Orissa HC Judges: Madras HC CJ Indira Banerjee To Head Probe After Justice S.J. Vazifdar’s Retirement

The Supreme Court has reconstituted the three-member in-house committee constituted to probe into the allegations of abuse of power levelled against two sitting Judges of Odisha High Court— Justices Indrajit Mohanty and Sangam Kumar Sahoo.

The Committee had earlier comprised of Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice S.F. Vazifdar; Chief Justice of Tripura High Court, Justice T. Vaiphei; and Allahabad High Court Judge, Justice Arun Tandon. After the retirement of Justice Vazifdar and Justice Vaiphei, the committee will now be headed by Madras High Court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee, and will also comprise of Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, and Madhya Pradesh High Court Judge, Justice Ravi Shanker Jha.

The newly constituted committee will be holding its first meeting on July 5, 2018.

The story so far

Former Chief justice of India, Justice T.S. Thakur, while acting on complaints filed by  Jayanta Kumar Das, and Dr. Aditya Prasad Mishra, had constituted the in-house committee to look into the allegations.

Justice Mohanty, the second senior most Judge of Orissa High Court, has been alleged to have obtained bank loans to run his hotel business after he was elevated to the bench. As per the complaint, he runs a hotel called ‘Triple C’ in a busy market in Cuttack. In 2009, he allegedly availed a loan to the tune of Rs. 2.5 crore from the State Bank of India to run the hotel, which has been claimed to be in contravention of the code of ethics for Judges.

The complaint against Justice Sangam Sahoo, who was appointed as a Judge of the High Court in July 2014, alleges that as an Additional Judge, he had misused public funds for the renovation of his official residence, beyond his entitlement inside the bungalow.

The inquiry had, however, been stalled after the name of a senior Supreme Court Judge had suddenly cropped up during the probe. Baffled at the development, the committee had then written to the then CJI, Justice Khehar, seeking his guidance. It had asserted that despite the allegations having surfaced, the committee is unable to proceed because its mandate excluded probing charges against a sitting Supreme Court Judge. Justice Khehar had, however, not taken any steps on the committee’s representation.

This had prompted Mr. Das to address another letter to the committee in October last year. He had written, “I feel that as if Indian Judiciary is trying to overshadow the illegal act of Justice Indrajit Mohanty and not in a mood to take any disciplinary action against him. If this would be the attitude of the Honourable Supreme Court of India and In-House Committee then the Citizens of India would certainly leave their faith in Indian Judiciary.”

He had then demanded that he be kept in the loop on the progress made by the committee and had requested that the probe be disposed of expeditiously.

Thereafter, Mr. Das had penned another letter to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on May 4 this year, requesting him to appoint the Chairperson and member of the in-house panel after the retirement of two of the committee’s members.