Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Aditya Kumar, ex-IPS officer, Krishna Gopal and Namita Singh, the judicial officers under Supreme Court's gaze

Supreme Court declined to alter the decision of Justice Anjani Kumar Sharan of Patna High Court dated March 21, 2023 in Aditya Kumar v. State of Bihar (Criminal Miscellaneous No.74217 of 2022) and compelled the suspended IPS officer to surrender. The 3-judge bench of Supreme Court is seized with the issue of unbecoming conduct of the two judicial officers, namely Krishna Gopal, A.D.J.-II, Benipur, Darbhanga and Namita Singh, O.S.D., Patna High Court and the "appropriate decision on the administrative side" by Chief Justice, Patna High Court. The matter was listed for hearing on December 12, 2023.

In its order dated November 22, 2023, the the 3-judge bench listed the matter for further hearing on December 12, 2023. It orered that the Supreme Court Registry shall add ‘Patna High Court through its Registrar General’ as Respondent No.3 and send requisite intimation forthwith. The counsel for the State may also inform the Registrar General, Patna High Court about this order for compliance. The Supreme Court observed, "Having considered the matter, this Court is of the opinion that the petitioner is not entitled to the benefit of anticipatory bail, majorly on account of the seriousness and gravity of the alleged offences and apparent non-cooperation....we affirm and uphold the Impugned Judgment. However, as there was an interim order in favour of the petitioner, it is ordered that he surrender before the Court concerned within a period of two weeks from today." It upheld the "Impugned Judgment' of Justice Sharan.

Prior to this, in his 18 page long order, Justice Sharan wrote, "Considering the facts and circumstances of case as well as the fact that there are ample evidence against the petitioner in the form of electronic evidence also, which not only discloses but also establishes the connivance, collusion and active participation of the petitioner as a mastermind, who got the plan executed through co-accused Abhishek Agrawal alias Abhishek Bhopalaka, I am not inclined to enlarge the petitioner on anticipatory bail. The prayer for anticipatory bail of the petitioner is hereby rejected."

Aditya Kumar, the petitioner had approached the High Court apprehending his arrest in Economic Offences P.S. (Patna) Case No. 33 of 2022 registered for the offences punishable under Sections 353, 387, 419, 420, 467, 468 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code and Section 66 (C) and 66 (D) of the Information Technology Act.

The order records that on the basis of a written information dated October 15, 2022 by the informant, Dy. S.P., Shri Bhaskar Ranjan, Economic Offences Unit (EOU), the case was registered. It has been alleged that on the basis of confidential information that while using the mobile number 9709303397 the user had called the then Director General of Police (DGP), Bihar, Patna and other senior officers on mobile phone and Whatsapp call to pressurize for doing an administrative act/taking administrative decision in favour of one senior officer. On verification of such fact, a team was constituted for which written intimation was also received from the DGP in which he informed that the user of mobile number 9709303397 was claiming himself to be Justice Sanjay Karol, the then Chief Justice of Patna High Court, on his D.P. the photograph of the then Hon’ble Chief Justice was fixed and he used to talk on his official mobile number 9431602303 on Whatsapp and was asking to do some work on which he doubted from the tone and, accordingly, directed to take necessary action.

Noatbly, the order records the involvement of two Judicial Officers in the murky transactions is also transpired as they unsuccessfully tried to make pairvi for listing the case of the petitioner in a particular Bench. It draws on whatsapp chatts between Krishna Gopal (Krishna Gopal, A.D.J.-II, Benipur, Darbhanga) and Abhishek Bholpalaka with regard to talk to Namita (Namita Singh, O.S.D., Patna High Court). It also draws on whatsapp chatts extraction report and chatt relating image in three pages, made on 11th June, 2nd July and 19th of July, 2022 relates to listing of the case of the petitioner, being Criminal Misc. No.41872 of 2022, in a particular Bench. Krishna Gopal was interrogated in question-answer format, in which, he has clearly admitted that during the  birthday party of son of the Abhishek Agrawal at Maurya Hotel, he was made acquainted with the petitioner, while Namita Singh has stated that she is not acquainted with the petitioner but the electronic evidence and extracted whatsapp chatts of Namita Singh with Abhishek Bholpalaka, the co-accused, clearly establishes that she gave assurance to get the case listed before the particular Bench. Whatsapp chatts between her and the co-accused is explicit example of her active role in the nefarious game. Besides the above, there are much more credible and clinching evidence in the form of electronic evidence, which shows their participation in the alleged crime.

Justice Sharan observes, "When this has been happening right under the very nose of the High Court, I cannot afford to turn a Nelson’s eye to these activities and conveniently ignore it. It is high time for this Court to take serious view of this matter on administrative side about the conduct of these two officers, which conduct is unbecoming of Judicial Officers."

The order records that petitioner has served as Superintendent of Police at Jehanabad and Begusarai and Senior Superintendent of Police, Gaya. During his posting in Gaya, he was accused of intervening to release a seized liquor consignment and a criminal case was later lodged against him. It was in connection with this case that the petitioner was accused of hiring a conman, who tried to influence the probe by calling up Director General of Police, S.K. Singhal while posing as Justice Sanjay Karol, the then he Chief Justice of the High Court.

A Special Leave to Appeal (Criminal) No. 4496/2023 was filed in the Supreme Court arising out of impugned final judgment and order dated March 21, 2023 passed by the High Court. It came for hearing on April 21, 2023 before the bench of Justices Krishna Murari and Sanjay Karol. Uupon hearing, the court passed an order saying, "List before a Bench of which one of us (Sanjay Karol, J.) is not a member after obtaining suitable orders from Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India."

On May 9, 2023, this petition came up before Justices Krishna Murari and Bela M. Trivedi which listed it for hearing on May 12, 2023.

On May 12, 2023, the petition came up before Justices Krishna Murari and Sanjay Kumar. The Bench passed an order saying, "Considering the facts and circumstances, no coercive action shall be taken against the petitioner, in the meantime."

On August 10, 2023, the petition came up before Justices Aniruddha Bose, Sanjay Kumar and S.V.N. Bhatti bench. Its order reads: "Let rejoinder affidavit thereto be filed within two weeks. In the rejoinder affidavit, the petitioner shall file full particulars as regards the mobile phone bearing no.7783862271 including the handset thereof. Learned counsel for the State is also directed to produce the entire call detail records for the relevant period in respect of the said mobile phone....The interim order granted by this Court shall continue till the next date of hearing."

On September 20, 2023, the petition came up before Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M. Trivedi. Its order reads: "List on 03.10.2023. On that date learned counsel for the State shall apprise this Court as to whether the investigating agency has the mobile phone of the petitioner in their possession or custody. The interim order granted by this Court shall continue until the next date of hearing"

In compliance with the Court's order Aditya Kumar surrendered in a court in Patna on December 5, 2023 one day ahead of the deadline of December, 2023. He was sent to jail. He had been absconding after being suspended from service. Kumar is a suspended Indian Police Services (IPS) officer of the 2011 batch. The Bihar police had been searching for the absconding IPS officer after registration of a case against him by the Economic Offences Unit, Patna in October 2022. In 2022, a case of disproportionate assets of ₹1.37 crore was registered against him and four others by the State’s Economic Offences Unit on the charges of cheating, impersonation, extortion and other offences. 

On November 22, 2023, the petition came up before Justices Aniruddha Bose, Ahsanuddin Amanullah and Augustine George Masih. The 10-page long order of Supreme Court reads: "the Registrar General, Patna High Court is directed to submit, in a sealed cover, complete details of what action the High Court has taken, along with copies of relevant documents, pursuant to the reference made to ‘Hon’ble the Chief Justice for taking appropriate decision on the administrative side’ apropos all such facts which have been noted in the Impugned Judgment. Learned counsel for the investigating agency/Respondent No.2 shall also make available the entire up-to-date Case Diary, with the relevant portions, flagged, in a sealed cover, on the next date. The Report called for supra be submitted on/before 09.12.2023 by the Registrar General, Patna High Court. 13. As we have heard the matter in extenso, and after due deliberation, in the fitness of things, this case shall be treated as part-heard."  

Significantly, Supreme Court has sought the report of Chief Justice, High Court with regard to the administrative action against two judicial officers in question.

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