Patna: A day after Justice Rakesh Kumar of Patna High Court questioned the modus operandi of senior judges and high court administration and remarked that corrupt judicial officials at the lower courts are getting protection in the state, the High Court, in a notice issued on Thursday, debarred him from hearing cases. The HC has asked him to wait for work assignments.
It was first such instance when the seniormost judge of Patna High Court targeted judges, high court administration, and talked about corrupt judicial officials at the lower courts in Bihar. "Corruption in this High Court is (an) open secret," Justice Rakesh Kumar had stated in his 20-page order delivered on Wednesday that has been withdrawn now.
A notice issued by the order of Chief Justice of Patna High Court on August 29 stated that ‘all matters pending before Justice Rakesh Kumar, sitting singly including tired up/part heard or otherwise stand withdrawn with immediate effect’.
“Hon’ble Mr Justice Rakesh Kumar will await in chambers for work assignments until ordered otherwise,” read the notice.
Justice Kumar’s remarks on Wednesday came while he was hearing a corruption case against a former IAS officer and former JD-U leader K P Ramaiah. He had questioned how Ramaiah was granted bail by a lower court when the High Court as well as Supreme Court had rejected his request for protection from arrest because of the gravity of the allegations.
Justice Kumar said that a "corrupt officer" like Ramaiah secured bail as a vacation judge heard his case in place of the regular judge of the Vigilance Court, who was away for a day.
The judge also alleged that the full bench of the Patna High Court had taken a lenient view every time the case of any judge from the lower judiciary had come up. "Despite my opposition, a judge facing serious charges was let off with minor punishment instead of exemplary punishment," Justice Kumar had said in his order.
The single-member bench of Justice Kumar suo motu revived Ramaiah’s anticipatory bail petition and ordered Patna district and sessions judge to conduct an inquiry regarding under what circumstances a regular bail was granted to him. The bench sought the inquiry report within three weeks.
"After my elevation as judge, I started to notice that senior judges were buttering Chief Justice. Initially, I thought why such action was shown by the senior judges, but after some time, I could gather that such actions were being taken to get their favourite or caste man elevated as a judge or do some favour to corrupt judicial officers," he had said in his order.
He also presented an illustration of four judicial officers who had between 11 and 21 petitions of various accusations, but, the judge said, they were all let off with mild punishment and remained in judiciary although they should have been dismissed in the best interest of the system.
"An inference can be drawn that those officers were having protection from the High Court. If after noticing all those facts, I only become a spectator, certainly, I can never forgive me," he said.
"It is known to everyone that one senior judge from the Allahabad High Court during Fodder Scam period had got his wife nominated as Rajya Sabha Member. This was not the end. Again, there was a judge from Allahabad High Court, who granted bail to an accused whose record of bail petition was lying in the Chamber of Hon’ble Mr Justice Akhilesh Chandra (as he then was), who was hearing his bail petition. So, corruption in this High Court is open secret," the judge maintained.
Justice Kumar also criticised HC judges for wasting public money by choosing to stay in guest houses for months under the pretext of renovating the government bungalows already allotted to them.
Justice Kumar ordered that a copy of Wednesday order be served to the Chief Justice of India, Prime Minister’s Office and Union Ministry of Law and Justice.
However, after a notice issued by the order of Chief Justice of Patna High Court, Justice Rakesh Kumar has reportedly said that the court may issue notices to the newspapers that published news items related to his statement.
Justice Rakesh Kumar has further said that he may be ‘sent to jail for the contempt of court’, but he will accept it as he is ‘solely responsible’ for what he stated.
Ramiah is accused of embezzling over Rs. 5 crore from the Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Mission, a state government scheme for deprived and marginalised Dalits. Ramiah, who had unsuccessfully contested 2014 Lok Sabha polls as a JD-U candidate after taking voluntary retirement, was considered close to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
A senior lawyer of Patna High Court told NewsClick on the condition of anonymity that corruption had entered judiciary long time back, but it has become rampant now. "No one raises and questions corruption by judges, their lifestyle and the luxury they enjoy. Justice Rakesh Kumar's voice is rare and genuine, but it may disappear in this corrupt system," he said.