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India

Six Instances Which Indicate Judges Faced Retribution For Their Orders

The most recent is the case of Special Judge Goel, where the Enforcement Directorate (ED) –investigating a case against Jain for money laundering – sought the transfer of the bail plea.

(Image used for representational purpose only)

The Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud recently said judges at the grassroots were reluctant to grant bail as there was a sense of fear, that “if I grant bail will somebody target me tomorrow on the ground that I granted bail in a heinous case”. Instances from Special Courts and High Courts have been indicative of judges facing the threat of transfers or even deferment in the promotion if their observations and judgements go against the will of investigating agencies or the leadership.  

Examples include the case transfer from Special Judge Geetanjali Goel in Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Satyender Jain’s bail plea, to Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Yadav’s transfer after coming down strongly on the Delhi police and its investigation of the Delhi riots of 2020 – several of the events below which have been questionable.

First, and perhaps the most recent is the case of Special Judge Goel, where the Enforcement Directorate (ED) –investigating a case against Jain for money laundering – sought the transfer of the bail plea.

The decision by ED had come a little over a month after the judge had pulled up the agency, asking how it would prove the connection of Jain with the companies which alleged to have laundered money.

The probe agencies’ request for transfer was granted by the principal district and sessions court in Delhi on September 23 to special judge Vikas Dhull. The decision by the trial court was however challenged by the AAP in the Delhi High Court (HC) which by September 26 sought the agency’s response. The Delhi HC too upheld the trial court’s order allowing the agency’s petition to transfer the case.

The recent development is that Supreme Court issued notice to the ED on the plea challenging the HC order.

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Judge Who Sought Contempt Of Court Against CBI Officer

Ten judges of Delhi district courts including the then special CBI judge Ajay Kumar Jain were transferred in June of 2016. A few months prior to this, Jain had urged the Delhi HC in April to initiate contempt of court proceedings against CBI’s investigation officer Deputy Superintendent of Police of CBI, Jayant Kashmiri and agency other officials in their probe against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s principal secretary Rajendra Kumar.

Jain had called the CBIs raid on Kumar’s office as one which had failed to comply with CrPC provisions. At the time of his posting, Jain was also hearing the Commonwealth Games scam case and the ED case on the AgustaWestland deal.

He was transferred from the New Delhi district to the Saket district court as the additional sessions judge.

Judge Hearing Delhi Riots 2020 Transferred  

After Delhi witnessed communal riots in February of 2020, they were two judges who had made strong observations against the Delhi police, their failure to maintain law and order and also their investigation. One was the Delhi HC judge Justice S Muralidhar, who was transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a midnight order.

Justice Muralidhar was hearing on the violence even as it continued in parts of North East Delhi, criticizing the central government, the state government as well as the police for the deadly riots– which led to the killing of 53 people and 100s injured.

Amongst the observations he made, he questioned the Delhi police on why it did not show alacrity when it came to registering FIRs against alleged hate speeches by three BJP leaders – MP Anurag Thakur, MP Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra.

The other judge who criticized the Delhi police while hearing the Delhi riots was Additional Sessions, Judge Vinod Yadav. The judge was hearing a case on the riots accused, where he accused policemen of lying under oath. The then ASJ Yadav also called the Delhi police investigation of the riots poor, and as having “miserably failed in their statutory duties”.

By October 2021, he was transferred to take on the role of Special CBI Judge, at Rouse Avenue Courts.

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Never Made Supreme Court Judge

There are many more examples of judges who have been transferred after unfavourable observations and rulings against the political leadership. It was in 2018 when Justice Akil Abdulhamid Kureshi was transferred from the Gujarat High Court, where he was expected to become chief justice to the Bombay High Court.

During his time in the High Court of Gujarat, Justice Kureshi in 2010, had set aside a trial court order, and granted the CBI two-day custody of then Gujarat Home Minister and now Union Home Minister Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.

By 2019, despite the Collegium’s recommendation to appoint Justice Kureshi as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh HC, it was rejected by the Centre and later was appointed as Chief Justice of the Tripura HC. Furthermore, despite his seniority, he was not made an SC judge.

He retired this year in March of 2022 as chief justice of Rajasthan HC. During his farewell speech he said, it was stated that the “Government had some negative perceptions about me based on judicial opinions”. This perception he said, as “a judge of the Constitutional Court whose most primary duty is to protect the fundamental and human rights of the citizens, I consider it a certificate of independence.”

Judge Who Admonished Amit Shah’s Excuse

Another case involving now Union minister Shah is that of special CBI judge J T Utpat. It was after the BJP came to power that in June of 2014, Utpat was transferred to Pune.

A week before his transfer, the special judge had pulled up Amit Shah’s lawyer for seeking an exemption for him from appearing before the court. The hearing of the case was of the alleged fake encounter case, of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati.

He was replaced by judge B H Loya, who died in 2014 allegedly from a cardiac arrest. The nature of his death has been in constant question with the Supreme Court dismissing in 2018 pleas for a fresh probe into Judge Loya’s death.

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