A Full Bench of the Patna High Court has quashed the controversial order of Justice Rakesh Kumar directing CBI probe into corruption allegations in lower judiciary.
The bench consisting of Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi, Justices Anjana Mishra and Anil Kumar Upadhyay termed Justice Kumar's August 29 order as one of "judicial and administrative overreach".
Justice Kumar had passed the order in a disposed anticipatory bail application, after summoning the file on oral orders, and listing it before his bench, without serving notice on the concerned parties.
The Full Bench found this process to be wholly improper and without jurisdiction.
"we find that apart from the lack of authority to adjudicate or pronounce was also coupled with the complete lack of administrative authority in the Judge to have summoned the file orally, not for mere perusal, which usually Judges do, but for clearly intending to proceed to deliver a judicial order which could not have been done in the absence of any application pending, any request made by any aggrieved party to the litigation or by any administrative direction of the Chief Justice. Thus, this was a case not only of jurisdictional incompetence but also of complete lack of administrative authority in summoning the file and issuing directions far beyond the competence of the learned Judge".
The matter related to a retired IAS officer K P Ramaiah, who was accused of embezzling Rs 5 crores. The bail application was re-posted by Justice Kumar, after observing that Ramaiah was granted bail by the Vigilance Court on the same day of surrendering. Taking this to be unusual, Justice Kumar directed the Patna District Judge to inquire into the circumstances under which the Vigilance Court granted bail to Ramaiah. 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, and ordered CBI investigation into that issue.
The Full Bench observed that the judge had not issued notice to the concerned parties before issuing the directions.
"the entire order nowhere speaks of any notice having been issued or any party having been heard. This, therefore, is a clear case of violation of principles of natural justice engrained in Article 14 of the Constitution of India which is yet another reason for us to interfere with the order."
Apart from ordering inquiry, Justice Kumar made scathing remarks against past and present sitting judges of High Court, and went to the extent of stating "corruption in this High Court is an open secret" and that judges were more interested in "enjoying privileges than administering justice".
This led to a huge furore, causing the constitution of an 11 judge bench immediately, which suspended the order observing that Justice Kumar was acting on peresonal prejudices.
The suo moto matter was later assigned to the Full Bench today. Along with this, the Full Bench also considered the appeal filed by Ramaiah, who complained that he was not heard.
"The jurisdiction to summon a file and then to pass strictures, comments and issuing administrative directions were all totally outside the scope of the authority of the learned Judge as indicated in the impugned order dated 28th August, 2019. The order is absolutely unsustainable on any count as it suffers from a dual incompetence of exercise of administrative as well as judicial authority.", observed the Full Bench.
Judicial work was reassigned to Justice Kumar today, after it was withdrawn on August 29.
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