Sucheta Dalal :Judicial accountability- the Justice Sabharwal saga
Sucheta Dalal

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Judicial accountability- the Justice Sabharwal saga  

September 20, 2007

Probe demanded into allegations against former chief justice

A section of the legal fraternity and civil society Wednesday demanded a high-level probe into allegations of corruption against former Supreme Court chief justice Y.K. Sabharwal.
'Sabharwal's alleged collusion with his sons and their business associates should be thoroughly examined by a high-level committee comprising of retired chief justices of India to expose corruption in the judiciary,' said Shanti Bhushan, former law minister and a senior advocate of the Supreme Court.

'Sabharwal has allegedly benefited his two sons, who run businesses related to construction, through his judicial decisions. He passed sealing and demolition orders (against illegal shops) in the capital, which largely benefited his sons and associates,' Shanti Bhushan said at a press conference here.

Responding to reports in a section of the media, Sabharwal has, in an article in a newspaper and also on a private TV news channel, denied the allegations of judicial misconduct on his part during the adjudication of cases related to commercial activities in residential premises of the capital.

Mid-Day, a tabloid published from Delhi, had carried a series of reports in May imputing ulterior motives to Sabharwal for taking up these cases.

Taking suo motu cognisance of the reports, the Delhi High Court had initiated contempt proceedings against the newspaper's journalists and convicted them Sep 11. The sentences will be pronounced Sep 21.

At the press meet, noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan, social activists Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal refuted Sabharwal's claims and maintained that there was enough proof to suggest that the former chief justice furthered the business interests of his sons through his judicial decisions in the Delhi sealing drive cases.

'Sabharwal's claims of ignorance about his sons' business activities cannot be accepted as there is strong evidence that he had passed some judgments directly or indirectly benefiting them,' Prashant Bhushan said.

'His sons also acquired plots at lower market rates in Noida without completing the required formalities during the Samajwadi Party regime in Uttar Pradesh, while he was dealing with a case against Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh,' Prashant Bhushan added.

Magsaysay award winner Kejriwal said the Mid-Day journalists should be absolved of the contempt charge as they had carried their reports on the basis of documentary evidence.

'The Delhi High Court shouldn't convict them without looking at the documentary evidence,' Kejriwal said.

Agnivesh agreed with this.

-- Sucheta Dalal