The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Magistrate fools sleuths
Gupta: In shame

Chandigarh, May 11: Judicial magistrate S.S. Bhardwaj escaped soon after the CBI raided his residence and arrested him for accepting a bribe.

Bhardwaj was held last night along with Jalandhar district and sessions judge R.M. Gupta for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 7 lakh from a litigant in connection with a property case to be heard by Gupta. Bhardwaj has been charged with accepting the bribe on behalf of Gupta.

“Bhardwaj, from whose residence we recovered the part payment of Rs 7 lakh in two boxes of sweets, had sought permission to go to the first floor and console a person who was crying. He did not come back. A search of the house revealed that he had escaped,” said a CBI official.

“An FIR has been lodged. Bhardwaj has been charged with accepting the bribe on behalf of Gupta,” added the official.

Chandigarh police sources said raids were being conducted in various parts of Punjab to locate Bhardwaj. “The police has conducted raids at Samana where he could be hiding,” a senior officer said.

CBI teams led by superintendent of police S.S. Bhatti had last night simultaneously raided the residence of Bhardwaj in Sector 22 and that of Gupta in Sector 8 and arrested the two.

The raids followed an allegation by a litigant that they had demanded a bribe of Rs 11 lakh to settle a property case slated for a final hearing before Gupta.

The CBI asked the complainant to give Rs 7 lakh in two boxes of sweets and deliver the amount to Bhardwaj. About Rs 50,000 had already been paid and a deal was struck to pay the remaining Rs 3.5 lakh after the judgment was delivered.

Bhardwaj was caught red-handed accepting the bribe.

CBI officials said Bhardwaj’s arrest was important as it could lead to the unearthing of many similar cases in the state.

“There is a possibility that the two could be involved in many property-related cases. We will also look into the possibility of other well-connected persons being involved in managing court cases in return for money,” said a CBI official.

Gupta and Bhardwaj’s relatives, however, refused to speak to the media. Telephone calls to their residences went unanswered. The CBI had till 7 pm not been able to produce both in court for remand.

The arrests have sent shockwaves among judicial officers in the state, already reeling under the Punjab Public Service Commission cash-for-jobs scam.

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