Taking strong exception to former Punjab and Haryana high court judge Nirmal Yadav’s absence, the court of special CBI judge Ritu Tagore has directed her to appear in person during the next hearing in the cash-at-judge’s-door case on November 18. Justice Yadav (retd), an accused in the case, did not turn up for the hearing on Saturday on health grounds, claiming that she had severe back pain.
Her counsel, SK Garg, moved an application and placed on record medical certificates issued by the PGI, Rohtak, in which doctors had advised her two weeks’ rest till November 3. A similar plea was taken by Yadav during the last hearing, when the doctors had also advised her two weeks’ rest. Opposing the plea, Anupam Gupta, special public prosecutor, CBI, said before the court, “I speak with pain and anguish that a person in her (Yadav’s) position should be moving such applications repeatedly as if appearing in court is some kind of a monstrous thing.”
He added that in case this was repeated he would be compelled to call in question the conduct of the PGI, Rohtak, in issuing her certificates like this. Taking cognisance of the application moved by Yadav’s counsel, Tagore said the court would accept her plea only this time. “It is mandatory for her to appear in the court for the next hearing and this act of her repeatedly seeking exemption from hearing in this manner will not be tolerated in future,” she said. However, co-accused Sanjeev Bansal and Ravindra Singh have been granted exemption from appearance in court for the hearing on November 18.
During the previous hearing, Yadav had filed an application seeking permanent exemption from personal appearance at all future hearings. Opposing her plea, the CBI had said that her argument that “she is afraid of a media trial, has crossed the age of 62 years and is a former judge of high court, a diabetic and suffering from hypertension” is immaterial and untenable for the purpose of claiming personal exemption.. The CBI, in its reply before the court, said, “Merely because she is a former HC judge, she cannot be placed on a pedestal higher than any other accused and has to be treated like all other accused persons in strict conformity with the constitutional principle of equality before the law. It has been clearly laid down in leading cases on the criminal liability of judges of high courts and the Supreme Court under the Prevention of Corruption Act – the judges are liable to be dealt with just the same way as any other person in respect of criminal offence.”
Meanwhile, the CBI filed its reply to Sanjeev Bansal’s application for supplying the notification and notings concerned regarding Gupta’s appointment as special public prosecutor. In his reply, Gupta submitted, “The accused has no locus standi to ask for notings and question the appointment. It is the prerogative of the central government to appoint a prosecutor for assisting the court.” The case had rocked the Punjab and Haryana high court after Rs 15 lakh was wrongly delivered at the residence of justice Nirmaljit Kaur, an HC judge, in Chandigarh on August 13, 2008, following which she reported the matter to the Chandigarh Police. The money, allegedly meant for justice Yadav, was said to have been delivered to justice Nirmaljit due to confusion over their names.
Later, Yadav was transferred as a judge of the Uttarakhand high court. Four co-accused — advocate Sanjeev Bansal, property dealers Rajeev Gupta and Nirmal Singh, and Delhi hotelier Ravinder Singh Bhasin — who are all currently on bail, appeared before the court. During the hearing on August 27, Yadav appeared for the first time before the CBI court and was granted bail after furnishing a bond.