‘Judges knew of fraudulent withdrawals’
The prime accused in the multi-crore provident fund scam fraudulently withdrew huge sums of money from the Ghaziabad district treasury in the full knowledge of 36 judges, alleged to have financially benefited from the scandal.
The startling revelation has been made by Ashutosh Asthana, chief administrative officer of the Ghaziabad district court and main accused in the case, in his confessional statement, recorded on oath before a magistrate, a copy of which is available with the HT.
“I accept the crime mentioned against my name, whatever sum of money has been withdrawn, they have been done in my complete knowledge and with the sanction of different district judges posted in Ghaziabad between 2001 and 2007,” Asthana has said in his statement.
Asthana has produced documents bearing signatures of all 36 judges and their families named by him, who allegedly got financial favours from him. He has listed the names of district judges who sanctioned withdrawal of money from the treasury and also of other judges who received household goods at their houses.
Of the 36 judges named by him, one is a sitting Supreme Court judge, while 11 judges belong to Allahabad and Uttarakhand High Courts. Twenty-four judges are district-level judges of Uttar Pradesh.
Sixty-nine accused are presently in jail, while the Supreme Court would on Thursday hear petitions demanding a thorough probe against the judges allegedly named by Asthana in his statement.
“I used to withdraw the fund illegally from the general provident fund at the instructions of judges-in-charge of Ghaziabad… I supplied goods worth crores to judges named by me on a monthly basis,” his statement said.
Top jurists have demanded a probe, saying any hesitation in a case involving judges could “tarnish the judiciary’s image”.
Former Chief Justice of India PN Bhagwati said it was not important who had leveled the allegations. “No doubt should be allowed to linger in the minds of the public with regards to any financial wrongdoing in cases where names of judges come up.”
Another former CJI, Justice VN Khare said it was important to clear any suspicion, even if it was baseless to ensure the respect of the judiciary in the eyes of the common man remains intact. “It is important to put a permanent stop to all whispers. The CJI is competent to order a probe in the matter, keeping the sensitivity of the matter in mind,” he said.