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CJAR letter to Justice Vazifdar regarding serious allegations against Justice Indarjit Mahanty

CAMPAIGN FOR JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND REFORMS

6/6 basement Jangpura B, Delhi – 110014

judicialreforms.org

Patrons: Justice P.B.Sawant, Justice H.Suresh, Shri Shanti Bhushan,, Prof. B.B.Pande, Dr. Bhaskar Rao, Ms. Arundhati Roy, Shri Pradip Prabhu, Prof Babu Mathew, Dr. Baba Adhav, Ms. Kamini Jaiswal, Shri Mihir Desai, Shri Manoj Mitta

Executive Committee: Prashant Bhushan, Nikhil Dey, Cheryl D’souza, Venkatesh Sundaram, Rohit Kumar Singh, Pranav Sachdeva, Indu Prakash Singh, Devvrat, Alok Prasanna Kumar, Anjali Bharadwaj, Dipa Sinha, Annie Raja, Ramesh Nathan, Siddharth Sharma, Indira Unninayar, Madhuresh Kumar, Vijayan MJ, Harish Narasappa, Vipul Mudgal, Koninika Ray


The Hon’ble Chief Justice

Punjab and Haryana High Court

Sector 1

Chandigarh

31.07.2017

Subject: Regarding allegations against Justice Indarjit Mahanty, Judge, Orissa High Court

Dear Hon’ble Chief Justice,

We understand that a three member in house inquiry committee was constituted by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to inquire into serious allegations against Justice Indarjit Mahanty. According to media reports, this enquiry headed by your Lordship, appears to have been stalled on account of the name of a senior Supreme Court judge, having cropped up in connection with these allegations against Justice Mahanty. We feel that there is no reason why the mere cropping up of the name of this senior Supreme Court judge, should in any way stall the inquiry against Justice Mahanty. The charges against Justice Mahanty must be decided on their merits irrespective of his connection with the Supreme Court judge.

We have come into possession of some of the material on the basis of which charges have been made against Justice Mahanty. It is clear from a review of the material that the charges against him are very serious and backed with adequate documentary evidence. The allegations against Justice Mahanty relate to acts of grave judicial impropriety and conflict of interest, tantamount to a clear breach of judicial ethics. In particular, we find that the following charges appear to be established on the basis of the evidence that we have with us which is detailed below:

1. Justice Indrajit Mahanty was appointed a Judge of the Orissa High Court on 31st March 2006. That after his elevation to bench, Justice Mahanty acquired homestead land in the year 2006. (Record of rights dated 18.08.2006, Annexure 1). He then sought permission from the Cuttack Development Authority (which was granted on 24.07.2007) to construct a three storey building which would be used exclusively for commercial cum residential purposes, as stated in the permit (Building permit Annexure 2). The minutes of the inhouse committee of the Cuttack Development Authority specifically mentions “Approval of Building Plan for construction of a three storeyed commercial cum residential building in favour of Hon’ble Justice Sri Indarjit Mahanty”. (Minutes of the Cuttack Development Authority in house committee, Annexures 3). Justice Mahanty submitted an application on 15.01.2009 to the State Bank of India SMECCC, Cuttak, requesting for sanction of Working Capital Limit under Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. On 16.02.2009, the State Bank of India, sanctioned the Term Loan (Term Loan -I with a Limit of One Crore sixty lakh rupees and Term Loan II with a Limit of ninety lakh rupees, i.e. a total of two crore fifty lakh rupees, to be repaid with interest in 9 years before March 2018. (SBI loan sanction letter, Annexure 4). As per the loan account statements of Justice Indrajit Mahanty account no. 30279939787 and 30683363327 from 1.04.2013 to .09.05.2014, the amount is being repaid from Justice Mahanty’s account. (Annexure 5)

Justice Indarjit Mahanty, in running a hotel business which he started after his elevation as a judge of the Orissa High Court, has acted in violation of the code of conduct for a Judge, which was adopted by the Full Court of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in May 1997, namely the “Restatement of values of Judicial Life”. Point 13 of the Restatement of Values of Judicial Life is a quoted below:

13. A Judge shall not engage directly or indirectly in trade or business either by himself of in association with any other person. (Publication of a legal treatise or any activity in the nature of a hobby shall not be construed as a trade or business).”

Besides, Justice Mahanty has been involved in various irregularities with respect to the construction and running of this hotel. The permit was for the construction of a three storeyed building, however the Hotel stands as a five storeyed construction. (Photograph of Hotel, Annexure 6).

2. In the year 2015, the Excise Department of the Government of Odisha, announced the closure of three bars in the city for employing female dancers and singers in violation of the Bihar and Orissa Excise Act 1915. The law prohibits employment of women in bars. The relevant portions of Section 25 (2) and (3) of the Bihar and Orissa Excise Act 1915 is below:

25. Employment of children or women by licensed vendors:

(2) No person who is licensed to sell foreign liquor for consumption on his premises shall, without the previous written permission of the Board,

-during the hours in which such premises are kept open for business,

– employ or permit to be employed, either with or without renumeration, any woman,

– in any part of such premises in which such liquor is consumed by the public.

(3) The State Government may, by notification, declare that sub-section (2) shall apply also, in any specified area, to persons licensed to sell country spirit for consumption on their premises.”

A letter dated 5.11.2015, was issued by the Sub-Inspector of Excise of BBSR-1 Charge stating:

It is alleged in some of the Social Medias that some of the Restaurants and Hotels on shops of BBSR – 1 and II charge area are conducting dance and music by engaging women in the shop premises to attract customers. It is a gross violation of Sec. 25 of Bihar and Orissa Excise Act, 1965. Apart from this it is also alleged that liquor is served outside the approved shop premises. Hence you are instructed not to allow such illegal activities or serious irregularities in the shop premises, failing which appropriate action shall be taken as per law.”

The above order was challenged by a hotelier Prasanna Kumar Panda and listed for hearing before Justice Indrajit Mahanty. Bench of Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice DP Choudhary gave a judicial order on 3.12.2015, that women can be employed for musical performances in bars and liquor serving restaurants across the State and issued some directions in the matter. (Copy of order dated 3.12.2015 Annexure 7)

This is a case of clear conflict of interest and Justice Indrajit Mahanty should have recused himself from hearing the matter. This is because, at the relevant time, Justice Indrajit Mahanty owned hotel, ran a dance bar where women were employed for musical performances, which was a clear violation of the Bihar and Orissa Excise Act, 1915. After a sting video of the dance bar being run in Justice Mahanty’s hotel went viral on social media, he was forced to close down the bar. (Annexure 8 CD with video of dance bar in Justice Indarjit Mahanty’s hotel Triple C)

In light of these serious allegation, we urge that the in house committee take a quick decision and submit their report, so that follow up action by way of impeachment proceedings, etc. can be taken. We hope to hear from you with regard to outcome of the in house inquiry.

Thanking you.

kind regards,

Prashant Bhushan

Convenor, Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reform

Cheryl Dsouza (secretary) 9958010850

Copy to:

1. Hon’ble Justice J.S. Kehar, Chief Justice of India

2. Honble Justice Dipak Misra

3. Hon’ble Justice Jasti Chelameswar

4. Hon’ble Justice Ranjan Gogoi

5. Hon’ble Justice Madan Bhimarao Lokur

Annexure 1 click here

Annexure 2 and 3  click here

Annexure 4 click here

Annexure 5 click here

Annexure 6 click here

Annexure 7 click here