Enraged over a Union Minister from Tamil Nadu allegedly "putting pressure" for granting anticipatory bails to two accused wanted in a medical student mark-sheet forgery case, Mr Justice R Reghupathy of the Madras High Court on Tuesday withdrew from hearing the case and referred it to the Chief Justice, Mr HR Gokhale for posting it before another bench for "appropriate orders".
The judge, venting out his agony over the Minister attempting to influence the judicial process, in the open court yesterday has created a stir in legal circles here in the course of pulling up the lawyer appearing for the petitioners, S Kirubha Sridhar, a third year MBBS student of a private medical college in neighbouring Puducherry Union Territory, and his doctor-father, C Krishnamurthy.
The CBI has been on the look out for the duo in a criminal case for allegedly bribing a Pondicherry University official to boost the marks in the student's Ophthalmology paper in which Kirubha Sridhar had failed, to help the latter pass that exam. The CBI had arrested the University staff and a middleman in May 2009 and the probe is on.
When the anticipatory bail pleas of the two accused came up again yesterday in the Court of Justice Reghupathy, at one stage he burst out at the petitioners' lawyer following some remarks. The Judge then reportedly said in anger, "A Union Minister talked to me. He sought to influence me to release this petitioner on anticipatory bail."
Mr Justice Reghupathy had even declared in the Courtroom that he would directly write to the Prime Minister about this incident if the lawyer did not apologize for his remarks. Sources said today that the advocate concerned did express his regrets to the Judge, after which the "matter has been given a quietus." However, the Judge did not name the Union Minister involved in the episode, either inside or outside the Court.
Condemning the Union Minister who "attempted to talk to the Judge in a bid to influence his decision" vis-à-vis the anticipatory bail pleas of the two accused in this case, the Madras High Court Advocates Association President, Mr Paul Kanakaraj, demanded action against the Minister concerned "once the person is identified".
The President of 'Lawyers For Social Justice Forum,' Mr K Balu has in a message to the Prime Minister urged that there should be no interference in the Judiciary by the Executive. Several senior High Court Advocates including Mr. Mohana Krishnan said the Minister seeking to "speak to the Judge" amounted to "threatening the Judiciary".
While the identity of the Union Minister the Judge had referred to still eludes the public domain, word going around in the Madras High Court campus has it that the Minister belongs to the DMK party. Recently, a Union Minister of State also from the DMK, Mr Jagathrakshakan, was in the eye of a storm over his Medical College in Chennai demanding high capitation fees.