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A judge in accused’s robes
- Dark day for judiciary as CBI cracks down in Delhi land scam

New Delhi, April 30: First he resigned when his name cropped up in connection with a scam. On second thoughts, he withdrew his resignation, but a trifle too late. Today, the former Delhi High Court judge was arrested.

Marking the darkest day yet in the history of the judiciary, the Central Bureau of Investigation this afternoon picked up Shamit Mukherjee after raiding his residence for alleged involvement in the Delhi Development Authority scam.

Patiala House Court lawyers said this was the first time in recent history that the name of a judge had been embroiled in corruption of such magnitude. So far, charges against judicial officials had largely been personal, they said.

The scam first burst into the open in late March when the CBI registered corruption cases against four top DDA officials — including vice-chairman Subhash Sharma — for showing undue favours to a construction company, DLF Universal Limited, to increase the floor area ratio of a plot. In return, the DDA officials were to pocket Rs 1.1 crore.

A conduit in the deal was one Dharamvir Khattar, from whose premises the CBI recovered judicial files belonging to Mukherjee’s court. Khattar allegedly liaised between Sharma and Mukherjee. He shares a south Delhi office with a lawyer, Ansu Agarwal, who has known the former judge since college.

The CBI today raided Ansu’s residence along with Mukherjee’s and that of nine others after registering a fresh FIR in the case and obtaining search warrants. Four bagfuls of documents and a computer were seized from Mukherjee’s India Gate home.

Soon after the raids, the former judge was whisked away to the CBI headquarters for questioning. He will be produced in court tomorrow.

The CBI has registered cases under Sections 7, 8, 11, 12 and 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 120 b (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against Mukherjee, Sharma and Khattar.

Cases have been filed against two others, Vinod Khatri and Ashok Kapoor, CBI joint director Ashwani Kumar said.

CBI director P.C. Sharma is believed to have met Chief Justice of India V.N. Khare after first stumbling on evidence against Mukherjee. In that case, why did the agency take so long to register a fresh FIR in the scam'

Mukherjee --- who was the standing counsel for the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Sports Authority of India --- put in his papers five days after his name cropped up in the scam. But the reason he gave was his wife was not keeping well.

A few days later, he wrote to the chief justice of Delhi High Court saying he wanted to withdraw his resignation but would not attend office till his name was cleared. But by then, it was already too late.

Sources said the CBI had more evidence of corruption in the judiciary and at the highest levels of the state bureaucracy. More action was expected on this front soon, they said.

Around a dozen persons have been arrested in the DDA scam, including Sharma, commissioner (lands) Anand Mohan Sharan, commissioner (planning) Vijay Rishbud and director (lands) Jagdish Chander.

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