Senior Karnataka officer J Manjunath, arrested in a bribery case, has moved the Supreme Court alleging media trial after Karnataka High Court’s Justice H P Sandesh made ”unwarranted remarks” while hearing the bail plea of an accused in the matter and later claimed to have received a threat of transfer. Justice Sandesh had questioned why Manjunath, the then Bengaluru Urban Deputy Commissioner, was not made an accused in the bribery case involving Deputy Tehsildar Mahesh P S who worked in his office. The judge had called the state’s Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) a ”collection centre” and its ADGP Seemanth Kumar Singh a ”tainted officer”.
The HC judge, who was hearing Mahesh’s bail plea, had also claimed to have received a threat of transfer in his order after his adverse remarks and had widened the scope of hearing while considering the bail plea.
A bench comprising Chief Justice N V Ramana and justices Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, which is already seized of two separate appeals of the ACB and the ADGP against the high court’s observations, on July 12 had requested Justice to defer the hearing in the matter for three days.
Now, the jailed officer, Manjunath, has also moved the top court against the remarks and sought an urgent hearing saying that some of the observations were made against him without giving him an opportunity.
Taking note of the submissions of senior advocate S Nagamuthu, appearing for the officer, the bench, on July 14, said, “Upon hearing the counsel…we deem it appropriate to direct the Registry to post the said petition along with Special Leave Petition (Crl.) No.6253/2022 and Special Leave Petition (Pleas of state ACB and the ADGP).” The plea said, “The High Court has lost sight of the fact that such remarks at nascent stages of investigation have a disastrous bearing on the fair probe and judicious conclusion of the criminal proceedings, including his right to remedy of bail” and added that he has been subjected to media trial due to these remarks.
Manjunath was arrested on July 4 and the sessions court had dismissed his bail application on July 11.
The state government and ACB chief Seemant Kumar Singh had earlier filed separate petitions against the High Court’s order and observations.
Additional Director General of Police Singh, in his separate plea, had sought expunction of adverse remarks of Justice Sandesh and a stay on the proceedings in the high court.
The observations and directions ranging from seeking reports on prosecution/closure of cases, probed by the ACB, since 2016 and summoning confidential service records of the ADGP have been passed while considering a regular bail application of an accused, the apex court was told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the state ACB.
It had all begun with the ADGP being asked to be personally present before Justice Sandesh on May 30 during the hearing of the bail petition of Deputy Tehsildar Mahesh P S, who was working in the Urban Deputy Commissioner’s (DC’s) office when an ACB raid had led to the bribery case against him.
The high court had questioned 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 a party, made the 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. PTI