The CBI is all set to give a quiet burial to one of the biggest scandals in the history of Indian judiciary. The probe agency is likely to tell the Supreme Court that there is not enough evidence against the judges, who allegedly benefited financially in the multi-crore Ghaziabad provident fund scam.
CBI sources said that “there was no clinching evidence” against majority of the judges. “All the judges named were questioned, including a Supreme Court judge, and it was found that they were not aware of the public money being siphoned-off by the court employees,” said a CBI official.
Solicitor general G.E. Vahanvati has hinted before the Supreme Court that the CBI might have to close cases against some judges for want of evidence. The court had on Friday directed the agency to file a status report by March 31 regarding the judges against whom no incriminating evidence had been found. The court is to hear the case on April 1.
The direction followed an application filed by Kanpur District Judge Subhash Chandra, one of the alleged beneficiaries in the scam, complaining that the pendency of the CBI probe was adversely affecting his chances of elevation to the Allahabad High Court.
It is the first case of its kind in which serving judges were questioned by an investigating agency. The CBI is also learnt to have scrutinised the bank details of the judges allegedly involved.
Names of 24 judges of Uttar Pradesh higher judicial service, 11 judges of the Allahabad HC and one Supreme Court judge figured in the scam. The sensational case came to light in January 2008 after Ghaziabad District Court vigilance officer reported to the Allahabad HC that a huge amount had been withdrawn as PF advances in the names of some serving and some fictitious employees of Class-III and Class-IV. The Allahabad HC had ordered the Ghaziabad police to register a criminal case in February 2008 after it was confirmed that Rs 7 crore had been siphoned off.
The Ghaziabad police had sought permission from the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court and the Chief Justice of India to question the serving judges and they were allowed to send a questionnaire to the judges to get their response in order to facilitate the probe. The Supreme Court handed over the case to the CBI in September last year after the Ghaziabad police expressed their inability to probe it.
In his confessional statement, main accused treasury official Ashutosh Asthana alleged that a large part of the money fraudulently withdrawn from provident fund was used for payment of construction material, air conditioners, mobile phones, refrigerators, furniture, etc, supplied to several sitting and retired judges between 2001 and 2007.
Asthana, who later turned approver, said he withdrew money following directions from the judges. At least 80 accused chargesheeted in the case continue to face trial from jail.