Did a serving judge of the Allahabad High Court pressurise Ashutosh Asthana, the main accused in the multi-crore Ghaziabad Provident Fund scam to retract from his confessional statement?
The judge figured in the list of 36, including a Supreme Court judge, named by Asthana, as alleged financial beneficiaries in the Rs 7 crore (Rs 70 million) scam, official documents show.
Asthana died mysteriously in the Ghaziabad district jail on October 17.
Asthana filed an affidavit in the Ghaziabad special court on August 29, 2008, saying he was forced to include the name of the judge "after he was tortured in police custody along with his wife and daughter. This judge had nothing to do with the scam and his rivals wanted the name to be included."
Asthana took the entire responsibility for the scam and asked the court not to blame anyone else, Hindustan Times has learnt.
However, within hours of filing the first affidavit, Asthana's lawyer filed a second affidavit on his behalf, saying "the first document had been forcibly filed, which should be ignored."
“I have been pressurised at various levels by some judges to withdraw their names, and in future also, if any document is filed in my name absolving anyone from the scam, it should first be checked with me,” Asthana said in the second affidavit.
His lawyer, S.C. Saxena said there were many instances in which Asthana’s signatures were forcibly taken on blank papers in the jail "by influential people", to be used later as documents to clear their names from the scam.
Earlier, on July 29 last year, Asthana was forced to file a similar affidavit, in which he had retracted from his confessional statement before a magistrate, and had taken the entire blame for the scam onto himself. He, however, disowned the controversial affidavit, hours later.
The only difference between the affidavits filed in July and August, was that he had not named anyone in the earlier set of affidavits filed in July.
Asthana's confessional statement had rocked the higher judiciary after he claimed to have bought gifts for 36 judges with the scam money.
He had named a Supreme Court judge, 11 judges of Allahabad and Uttarakhand High Courts and 24 district judges in Uttar Pradesh.
Asthana was arrested in April last year and continued in jail till October 17 this year, when he died under mysterious circumstances. His family has alleged that he has been “murdered on the instructions of powerful people involved in the scam.”