Judge Hema draws flak for statements in Abhaya case

via PNS | Kochi published on January 13, 2009



Did
Justice Hema overstepped the limits of her authority as bail court
authority, to find fault with everything the CBI had done in the
investigations into the Sr Abhaya murder? Has she brought disrepute to
the Judiciary by making open statements in the court in response to the
observations made by the writ court in the case? Have her statements,
first on January 1 while granting bail to the accused in the Sr Abhaya
case and then on Monday, while hearing a case which had no relation to
the case of nun’s murder, gone against the discipline judges are
supposed to keep? Having her statements led to derailment of the CBI’s
investigations in the murder case?

Large sections of the legal
fraternity, media, rights groups, women’s organisations and even
retired judges of the High Court choose to answer ‘yes’ to all above
questions. Even seminars are being organised in the State to analyse
threadbare, the content of and intentions, behind judge Hema’s
observations while examining bail applications and statements made
against the conclusions drawn by Justice R Basant, another judge of the
same court who was monitoring the CBI’s investigations into the murder
of Sr Abhaya.

On January 1, Justice Hema, while granting
bail to the three accused in the murder case, observed almost every
step in the CBI probe was wrong. She made negative comments on the
investigation procedures, pointed out the lapses of the agency and
asked it to continue the probe only after engaging a more senior and
experienced official as supervisor for the probe.

This landed
the CBI in trouble. As the probe was being held under an official with
impeccable service history, guided by a very senior DIG and Joint
Director and monitored regularly by none other than the CBI Director
himself, the agency could not find a more senior person than this and
therefore it had no way to continue the probe. It asked Justice Basant,
who was in-charge of the judicial monitoring of the investigation, to
show a way out.

Justice Basant, the writ judge, told the CBI
that it could continue its probe with the same structure despite the
observations made by Justice Hema. He said Justice Hema, as bail judge,
had no right to interpret and comment on the probe but her only worry
should have been the legal matters of bail. The judge also told the CBI
that it should not think that anyone taking up the divine sword was not
an oracle, in an indirect dig, reportedly at Justice Hema. CBI complied
with that order from the writ court.

From the words she spoke on
Monday, while dealing with as totally different case, it was obvious
that she was offended, and some legal experts said she had acted as
though her ego was hurt, something judges were not supposed to do in
any circumstance. She said that she knew her powers, that she did not
care whether she got exposure in the mediaor else.

Kaleeswaram
Raj, a well-known legal expert said, the statement war between the
judges had caused a huge erosion of credibility of the Judiciary as far
as people and the legal fraternity were concerned. He said some judges,
instead of showing the piety, their positions demanded, were
celebrating their arrogance, without any direct reference to Justice
Hema.

Retired Justice Shamsuddeen said the wrangling had caused
huge damage to the image of the judiciary among the people and that
judges were not supposed to do mud-slinging. He said what judge Hema
should have done, if she had any complaint, was to take it up in a
different way acceptable to the Judiciary.

“Differences of
opinion between two judges on the same case are not unheard of. I had
had such an experience with my co-judge on a case. We did not quarrel
but solved the problem in a totally acceptable way,” he said. He added
that Justice Hema should have limited her observations to the mater she
was considering, which was bail application.

Speakers at a
seminar organised by women’s organisations in Kochi on Tuesday on the
issue made the direct allegation that Justice Hema’s observations had
caused serious derailment of the CBI probe in the Sr Abhaya murder
case.

The speakers at the seminar, organised by the Kerala
Mahila Sabha, All-India Democratic Women’s Association and Kerala Stree
Vedi, sharply criticised Justice Hema for her statements and
observations. Former Additional Advocate General Muhammad Yusuf
inaugurated the seminar. Several participants opined that this would
remain a blot on the face of the Judiciary.

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