Apex court declines to transfer provident fund scam trial to Delhi


New Delhi: Nearly a month after the mysterious death of Ashutosh Asthana, the key accused-cum-witness in a corruption case involving judges of higher judiciary, in a Ghaziabad jail, the Supreme Court Thursday turned down – for now – a plea to transfer the trial to Delhi.

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“No, no, no, the charge sheet in the case has not yet been filed,” remarked a bench of Justice D.K. Jain and Justice H.L. Dattu as Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati sought to apprise the court that as per its earlier instruction, the government has identified a designated Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Delhi to transfer the trial out of the neighbouring Uttar Pradesh town.

The bench cut short the government’s top law officer in the middle of his submission that the case could be transferred to the court of CBI Special Judge V.K. Maheshwari in Delhi’s Tis Hazari courts.

The court was hearing a lawsuit by the Ghaziabad Bar Association, which earlier had succeeded in securing the apex court’s order for a CBI probe into the fraudulent withdrawal of social security fund worth Rs.23 crore belonging to Ghaziabad court lower staffers.

The fund had allegedly been withdrawn by Asthana from the district court’s treasury between 2000 and 2008 in collusion with judicial officers, including sitting judges.

A part of the money thus obtained was pocketed by Asthana while the rest was spent on expensive gifts to the judicial officers concerned, sent by Asthana.

The judges who benefitted from the scam also allegedly included a sitting apex court judge, besides several judges of the Allahabad High Court and the Uttar Pradesh subordinate judiciary, both retired and serving.

Vahanvati also sought the transfer of the trial on the plea that the Ghaziabad court was neglecting it to the extent that it was not recording even the statements of witnesses.

Supporting Vahanvati’s submission, senior counsel M.N. Krishnamani, appearing for the Ghaziabad Bar Association, told the court that the court was not hearing even the bail pleas of the accused lodged in jail.

The CBI submitted in a sealed cover its fifth status report of the ongoing probe into the scam

The court, however, refused a plea by Krishnamani to hand over a copy of the report to him, saying it cannot be made public as yet.

The court also asked the CBI to have the handwritings of the various receipts and documents, gathered by the CBI as evidence against various accused and suspects, to be examined by the experts.

Vanavati told the court that forensic examination report of Asthana’s viscera was yet to be received. He also told the court that the CBI has also sought DNA profiling of Asthana, who died Oct 18 in Ghaziabad’s Dasna jail under mysterious circumstances.

The bench slated the next hearing Jan 31, 2010.