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SC asks Karnataka HC judge who made ‘adverse’ remarks against ACB top officer to defer hearing

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Supreme Court
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NEW DELHI:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Karnataka High Court’s Justice H P Sandesh, who made some “adverse” remarks against the Anti-Corruption Bureau and its ADGP Seemanth Kumar Singh while taking up a bail plea in a bribery case, to defer the hearing in the matter for three days.

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The Additional Director General of Police, in his plea, had sought expunction of adverse remarks of Justice Sandesh, who had called the ACB a ”collection center” and Singh a ”tainted officer”, and a stay on the proceedings in the high court.

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 state government, and the counsel of the ADGP and requested the HC judge to put off the hearing. on the bail plea that was scheduled for July 13.

The apex court will now hear the matter on Friday.

On July 11, the high court judge had also dictated an order in which he reportedly stated that he was threatened with transfer and the threat of transfer was conveyed to him by another sitting judge.

”Taking into consideration this (fact), we request the learned judge to defer the hearing for a period of three days to enable us to look into the order passed on July 11. List it on Friday,” the top court said in its order while hearing the two separate pleas of the state ACB and the ADGP against the observations.

At the outset, the solicitor general, appearing for the state ACB, said the single judge should have refrained from passing such an order on Monday despite being apprised that the top court has agreed to hear the appeals against the remarks on Tuesday.

Urging for the stay on proceedings pending before the single judge HC bench, the law officer suggested that the matter can be given to a bench headed by the Acting Chief Justice of 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 in a corruption case.

The high court has the power to monitor the probe in any case but such a power cannot be invoked while exercising bail jurisdiction, Mehta said, adding that a PIL should have been registered and sent to the Acting Chief Justice of the high court.

Asked about the fate of the bail plea, he told the bench that it was still pending.

The counsel for the ADGP said that strictures have been passed against him without according him a hearing.

”My ACR was being read in open court from 2009. I was not allowed to speak yesterday also…,” the counsel for the ADGP said.

”The petitioner (police officer) said that some serious observations were made during the bail hearing without hearing him. The high court directed the government to produce the service records of the officer (ADGP),” the top court was told.

On July 11, the top court agreed to hear two appeals of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and its ADGP Seemanth Kumar Singh against the “adverse remarks”.

Prior to this, the ACB officer had moved the Karnataka High Court seeking expunging of the remarks.

”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 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.

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