Kerala HC recalls bail order amid row over lawyer’s bribery claims
The high court registrar has collected details of cases represented by Kidangoor and submitted them to the police.
Thiruvananthapuram: A Kerala high court judge has recalled his order granting bail to two accused in a SC/ST Act case, amid allegations that the lawyer who represented the petitioners had claimed he could bribe judges to get favourable orders, people familiar with the matter said.
Senior high court lawyer Saiby Jose Kidangoor, who is also the president of the Kerala high court advocates’ association, has been accused of demanding huge sum of money from his clients, including some high-profile names, claiming he could “influence judges”.
Though the accusation against the senior lawyer first surfaced late last year, it further escalated after the vigilance wing of the court earlier this month reportedly found the allegation to be true and sought a detailed police inquiry into the matter, senior lawyers said.
“Some of the judges of the high court have sought a detailed probe into these charges, which, they said would affect credibility of the whole judicial system,” a senior lawyer said, requesting anonymity.
Meanwhile, the high court registrar has collected details of cases represented by Kidangoor and submitted them to the police.
On Saturday, Kochi police commissioner K Sethuraman recorded statements of 14 people, including Kidangoor, and submitted a report to Kerala’s director general of police (DGP) Anil Kant. “The police will file a case against him (Kidangoor) once they get nod from the high court,” a police officer said, declining to be named. “The high court is expected to take a call on this on Monday.”
Kidangoor was not available for a comment on Sunday. Last week, Kidangoor repeatedly denied the allegations against him, calling them “baseless and fabricated”, while claiming he only took consultation and lawyer fees from clients.
The allegations surfaced after a film producer, an accused in an alleged sexual assault case involving another Kerala film actor, claimedin Kochi last yearthat he had to cough up huge amount of money to procure a pre-arrest bail. Kidangoor was his lawyer.
There were also allegations that Kidangoor took the name of three judges of the high court, claiming he could bribe them to get “favourable” orders.
On Friday, Justice Ziyad Rahman withdrew his order in connection with a case registered against two people under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for allegedly assaulting a Dalit man at Ranni in Pathanamthitta district in March 2022.
The accused first approached the lower court for bail, which was turned down. They then moved the high court and on April 20 last year, Justice Rahman granted pre-arrest bail to the two accused, who were represented by Kidangoor. Later, the de facto complainant in the case moved the court citing credentials of the counsel and complained that basic procedures were not met while granting them bail.
Recalling his order, the judge posted the matter for a fresh hearing. “It is an order issued not only in violation of provisions but is also against principles of natural justice,” Justice Rahman said on Friday. “The court passed the order without taking note of the fact that no such notice was served upon the affected parties. In such circumstances, I am of the view that the order is liable to be recalled in the light of principles laid down by the Supreme Court in the Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar’s case.”
Several lawyers and legal experts have asked the bar council and the court to take a strict action against Kidangoor. “Almost a week passed since some of these charges were trickled in, but no serious investigation (has been ordered) or case registered,” said senior lawyer B Jayashankar. “A full-fledged investigation is needed, otherwise it will affect the credibility of judicial system.”
Some former judges have also said “brushing the issue under carpet will damage the judicial system badly”.