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Supreme Court judges admit to pressure in hawala case

In an unprecedented disclosure in Indian judicial history, the three Supreme Court judges monitoring the Rs 650 million Jain hawala investigation admitted to being under ''terrible outside pressure'' in the case.

Pressure was being built up to force the individual judges to withdraw from the case, the judges said on Monday, but made it clear that none of them would do so. They would continue to deal with the case the way it should be dealt with.

The admission was made at the very outset of the hearing of the case by Chief Justice J S Verma on behalf of himself and on behalf of the two other judges on the bench -- Justice S P Bharucha and Justice S C Sen.

The Chief Justice stated in the open court even before senior counsel Anil Divan, amicus curiae in the case, could speak that it was high time that ''we must tell of outside pressure on us for quite sometime now to see that we recuse ourselves from the case. These things are not going to work. None of us will recuse. All kinds of things are happening, people are trying to reach us first a person tried to reach me. The same person approach brother S C Sen and he was worried. I asked him to ignore it.''

''The case is with us. We will deal with it the way it should be dealt with,'' Chief Justice Verma said.

The Chief Justice said some people connected with the courtroom might be involved in these activities, ''Today they had contacted brother Bharucha. Their game plan would never succeed,'' the chief justice asserted.

The Supreme Court also took a serious view of the criticism in the media on the hawala proceedings. ''All this has been going on for quite some time and we have been ignoring it. But it is high time that we make it clear that we shall continue to monitor the hawala investigations the way it should be done to ensure fair investigation.''

The judges also warned officers of the Central Bureau of Investigation that severe action would be taken against them if they continued with their "frequent uncalled for utterances."

Judges Verma, Bharucha and Sen made the observation during the hearing of an application by Divan, challenging the transfer of CBI director Joginder Singh.

''Too many officers of the CBI appear to have been bitten by the publicity bug. Is it an organisation or a joke? Every one talks as he likes. One gentleman (CBI Director R C Sharma) says what he will do tomorrow and another gentleman (Joginder Singh) says he will make one million dollars on a book still in his mind,'' the judges observed.

The judges said the manner in which the CBI was functioning would give rise to doubts about its credibility. ''Individuals in the organisation are making a mockery of it. Hereafter, anyone found making remarks outside the court will be dealt with very severely,'' they warned.

Commenting on CBI Director Sharma's interviews soon after taking over, the judges observed: ''The successor in the office has started stating things totally uncalled for. What kind of credibility will it give to the organisation? We ourselves have been very careful during the proceedings in the case and names of individuals were always avoided.''

Coming to Joginder Singh's transfer, the court did not find anything offensive in it. ''Our primary concern is that those who are in the investigating team are not disturbed,'' the judges said.

When Divan insisted that the transfer had been effected bypassing the court's earlier directions, Chief Justice Verma said those orders were issued in a peculiar situation during the regime of CBI director K Vijaya Rama Rao when a person at the helm of affairs himself (then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao) was under investigation. That situation did not exist now.

All through the proceedings, when the judges were making critical observations about the CBI's functioning, the agency's director was present in the court. So were Revenue Secretary N K Singh and Enforcement Director M K Bezbaruah.

''We want only the investigation to be done fairly and honestly. If you (Anil Divan) feel that Joginder Singh should have been retained, we are not too sure,'' the judges said.

When Divan insisted that the court must say something on the transfer, Justice Bharucha observed: ''The transfer should have come a bit earlier for the way he has been behaving.''

When Divan pointed out that officers of the Enforcement Directorate were being shadowed, the Chief Justice said: ''If they have any problem they can always come to the court and we would do the needful.''

The court adjourned the hearing to August 19, when Divan will begin submission on the larger issue in the case -- total independence for the CBI.

When Attorney General Ashok Desai submitted that the government itself was contemplating the necessary amendments in the statute concerned to grant autonomy to the CBI, the chief justice asked, "Why not total independence?"


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