All judicial work has been withdrawn from a sitting judge of Patna High Court, who turned whistleblower by ordering CBI inquiry into corruption allegations in lower judiciary.
On Wednesday, Justice Rakesh Kumar ordered CBI probe into bribery allegations in subordinate judiciary and made scathing remarks against the conduct of impropriety on the part of his HC colleagues.
Soon after that, the Chief Justice issued an order withdrawing all cases from him.
"All matters pending before Justice Rakesh Kumar, sitting singly including tired up/part heard or otherwise stand withdraw with immediate effect," the Patna High Court Chief Justice said in a notice issued on Wednesday.
The trigger for this notice appears to be an order passed by Justice Rakesh Kumar in a bail application of a retired IAS officer K P Ramaiah, who was facing accusations of embezzling Rupees 5 crores.
Justice Kumar, the second senior judge of the HC, expressed anguish at the manner in which a vacation judge of Vigilance Court allowed the bail application of the retired IAS officer on the same day of surrendering, after his plea for pre-arrest bail was dismissed by the High Court.
He felt it was unusual that a "corrupt officer" like Ramaiah secured bail from a vacation judge in place of the regular judge of the Vigilance Court, who was away for a day.
Taking note of this development on the basis of a report in Dainik Jagran daily, Justice Kumar re-posted the bail application under the caption 'to be mentioned' on Wednesday.
"Of course, grant of bail or refusal of bail is complete discretion of the court, but if the manner, in which, an accused is granted bail, which raises finger against the judiciary, certainly exercising supervisory power, this Court is entitled to examine as to whether the power for grant of bail was exercised judiciously or due to some extraneous consideration.", observed the judge while ordering the Patna District Judge to inquire into the matter.
In this connection, the judge referred to a sting video titled 'Cash for Justice' aired by Republic TV in 2017, which indicated demanding of illegal gratification by officials of Patna civil courts.
Justice Kumar observed in the order that he had urged the then Chief Justice to register FIR and cause inquiry into the allegations based on the sting video. He also referred to a complaint filed by Advocate Dinesh of Patna High Court, which prayed for action into the corruption allegations.
Justice Kumar distressingly noted that the Patna High Court was taking a lenient view in respect of corruption allegations against lower judiciary.
"In normal course, I would not have passed such order, but since last few years, this Court is taking notice of the fact that in Patna Judgeship, things are not going in its right perspective."
"In any event, the High Court was duty-bound to register an F.I.R. and get the matter investigated by an independent investigating agency. Unfortunately, no such action was taken by this Court. Ofcourse, orally, I, being a Judge of this Court, had shared this fact among the Judges, particularly the then Chief Justice to take some action, however nothing was done."
Therefore, he ordered the CBI to conduct an inquiry into entire episode relating to corruption in the premises of the Patna Civil Court shown in news published through Republic T.V. channel and lodge regular case i.e. FIR.
Criticism of fellow judges
Not stopping with that, Justice Kumar then embarked upon a scathing criticism of the conduct of his fellow judges, which he regarded as improper.
Recounting his experiences as a Standing Counsel of CBI in 1995, where he witnessed 'fixing' of bail applications, he said "corruption in this High Court is open secret."
Justice Kumar observed that judges were more interested in 'enjoying privileges' than administering justice.
"Of course, being a Judge, there are many restrictions, but fact remains that the Judges, besides administering justice, are enjoying certain privileges also. It has been noticed that instead of discharging duty, we are more indulged in enjoying privileges."
He mentioned instances of splurging of crores of public money for renovation of judges' bungalows, giving undue favours to wards of judges, and nepotism.
"It is also open fact that wards of Judges are practising in Patna High Court. Ward of one of Judge, even during short period of his profession, has taken classes in Bihar Judicial Academy and got honorarium.", he said.
He alleged that the judges "were buttering" the Chief Justice to "get their favourite or caste man elevated as a Judge or do some favour to corrupt judicial officers".
There are instances of protecting corrupt judicial officers, he added.
"Despite my opposition, a judge facing serious charges was let off with minor punishment instead of exemplary punishment," Justice Kumar said, after narrating how his demand for strict action against erring officials were overruled by the full court.
"I am of the opinion that only to save the respect of judiciary, we must not put curtain to those corruptions, otherwise faith of entire society will be finished in the judicial system.", he said.
He made these sharp comments saying "If after noticing all those facts, only I become an expectator, certainly I can never forgive me."
The judge ordered that a copy of his order be served to the Chief Justice of India, the Prime Minister's Office and the Union Law Ministry.
Justice Rakesh Kumar was elevated to bench in 2009 after 26 years of law practice. His term as HC judge is till December 31, 2020.
Click here to download order for CBI enquiry
Click here to download order of Patna HC CJ withdrawing cases from Justice Rakesh Kumar
Read Order in bail application
Read order of CJ Patna HC