SC to hear pleas of Karnataka ACB, its ADGP against adverse HC remarks; judge puts transfer threat on record
The apex court took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Karnataka ACB, seeking urgent listing of the plea.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Monday agreed to hear an appeal of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) ADGP Seemanth Kumar Singh of Karnataka challenging certain adverse remarks made by the high court against him and the ACB during the hearing of a bail plea in connection with a bribery case.
A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli took note of the submissions of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Karnataka ACB, seeking urgent listing of the plea.
"This is a matter where in a bail hearing, a single judge bench of the Karnataka High Court has taken various issues. We have been asked to file all. Summary reports. Several observations have also been made. It requires an urgent hearing," the law officer said.
The top court agreed to list the plea for hearing on Tuesday.
A separate appeal on behalf of the ADGP was also mentioned for hearing.
"The Judge has said that you are going to threaten him and you are an influential officer, the bench told the counsel for the officer.
Earlier, the ACB ADGP had moved the Karnataka High Court seeking to expunge the remarks made by the single judge against him and the state anti-graft bureau during the hearing of a bail petition in connection with a bribery case.
The ADGP, in his plea to the high court, had recalled the remarks of Justice H P Sandesh calling the ACB a "collection centre" and Singh it's head a "tainted officer".
"The petitioner is deeply hurt by the oral observations made by the learned single judge which has caused a severe dent to the reputation of the petitioner and also that of the ACB," the petition had said.
It had all begun with, Singh, a senior IPS officer being asked to be personally present before Justice Sandesh on May 30 during the hearing of the bail petition of Deputy Thasildar Mahesh P S, who was working in the Urban Deputy Commissioner's (DC's) office when an ACB raid had resulted in the bribery case.
The high court had questioned as to why then DC Manjunath was not made an accused in the case, following which the court was promised he would be made a party in the case.
On June 29, during the next hearing of the case, Justice Sandesh on noticing the DC was not yet made a party, made observations against ACB and the ADGP.
On July 4, Singh was again present in the court, during which the judge stated that he was threatened with the transfer after his remark against the ACB that it had become a "collection centre", and that he was unfazed by such threats.
Singh in his petition had said, the judge asked for his service records to be submitted and there were negative remarks in it.
"The learned single judge has also stated that the petitioner is apparently powerful and has made several other unwarranted and baseless statements," the petition had said.
Singh's petition had sought a stay on the order of Justice Sandesh calling for his service records as it was beyond the scope of the bail petition the court was hearing.
He had also sought to expunge the oral observations made by the judge which he says were widely reported in the media and dented his image.
Justice H P Sandesh of the High Court of Karnataka on Monday put on record the earlier observations he had made regarding the threat of transfer conveyed to him by another sitting judge.
Senior advocate Ashok Haranahalli submitted that a special leave petition (SLP) has been filed before the Supreme Court against the observations made by Justice Sandesh.
The SLP was listed for hearing on Tuesday and therefore an adjournment was sought.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) also filed a memo, stating that an SLP was filed in the apex court and sought adjournment.
The court subsequently recorded the oral statements made in previous hearings about the transfer threat he faced due to the observations.
"There cannot be a threat to the court. It amounts to interfering in the dispensation of Justice. I have already conveyed it to the concerned," Justice Sandesh observed.
When the senior counsel asked for the name of the judge who conveyed the threat, Justice Sandesh said he should not be asked to make a mistake by naming anyone.
He, however, said that since he was doubting his words, he would put it on record.
"When this matter was heard on June 29, 2022, this court found inaction on part of ACB in arraying the real accused and made observations regarding the inaction on the part of ACB in bringing the real culprits and matter was adjourned to July 4, 2022," he said "A dinner was arranged by this court to bid farewell to Chief Justice on July 1, 2022.
A sitting judge who came and sat by the side of me started with the word (name not recorded) he had received a call from Delhi and says the person who called from Delhi, inquired about me," he further said.
"The judge did not stop the same there itself, and said that ADGP is from North India and he is powerful. He also gave an instance of transfer of, "he said.
The live streaming of the court proceedings is frozen for some time after this and the text of Monday's order is awaited to be uploaded.
Further, the court has also recorded in Monday's order, the remarks made against ADGP of ACB that are part of his service records.
The court said the service records of ADGP Seemanth Kumar Singh who heads the ACB and 'B' Reports filed by ACB were called for as the agency and the government lacked enthusiasm and interest to take the investigation to its logical conclusion.
Justice Sandesh is hearing a bail petition of a deputy tahsildar who was working in the Bengaluru Urban Deputy Commissioner's office.
Subsequent to the hearing of this petition, the then DC has also been arrested in the case.
Remarks made against the ADGP Seemanth Kumar Singh, have also become a major issue.
Singh has filed a petition in the High Court seeking expunging of the remarks against him and the ACB.
The judge had termed ACB a "collection centre," and Singh a "tainted officer."
Apart from calling for records of 'B' Reports filed in corruption cases, Singh's service records and details of a mining bribery case against him was sought by the court.
Justice Sandesh said he called for service records of Singh because there was a threat to the court which was nothing but undermining its independence.
He said, "you have already approached the Supreme Court. If they find I am wrong, let there be an enquiry."
In Monday's order, the court also directed the State not to appoint tainted officers to anti-corruption agencies like the ACB.
The judge said, "The Chief Secretary is directed that before posting officers that too to an institution established for prevention of corruption to take note of the public interest and should not be posting any tainted officers to the helm of affairs of the institution established for the prevention of corruption" The case was listed for hearing on Wednesday.