|Laloo: Party seeks probe
March 15: A Supreme Court judge dropped a bombshell in the courtroom today, revealing that he had been sounded whether a judge could be changed in one of the fodder scam cases in which Laloo Prasad Yadav is an accused.
'Yesterday, someone contacted me from the high court and indirectly wanted to know whether the trial judge can be changed,' Justice S.. Variava told the open court.
The disclosure came at a time when Laloo Prasad's political stock has nosedived and in the middle of a debate over division of powers of the judiciary and the legislature.
Justice Variava did not identify the court, but it is assumed that he was referring to Patna High Court. A disproportionate assets case against Laloo Prasad is going on in Patna and already three judges have been transferred.
The case, now being heard by Yogendra Prasad, is proceeding in a CBI special court but the transfer of officials comes under the high court. Most of the other key cases have been shifted to neighbouring Jharkhand.
Justice Variava, the presiding judge of a bench hearing a petition alleging evidence-tampering and seeking the cancellation of Laloo Prasad's bail, made the revelation as soon as the court assembled.
Mukul Rohtagi, the counsel for petitioners Rajiv Ranjan Lalan (JD-U) and Sushil Modi (BJP), said they were afraid that the trial judge might be changed by promoting him and holding it as a 'routine promotion'.
At this, Justice Variava said: 'Now it will not happen.'
Solicitor-general G.E. Vahanvati was quick to assure the court that the earlier prosecutor in the case would continue.
Realising that the Opposition will use the judge's disclosure to target Laloo Prasad though his name has not been mentioned, the Rashtriya Janata Dal today sought a 'thorough probe' to find out who approached Variava.
'Nobody influences judges. The issue has been raked up just to create confusion. We will see who called up whom,' senior RJD leader and Union minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said.
Asked if he felt that the judiciary had made a wrong statement, Singh said the matter had to be investigated. 'Only then will we come to know what is the truth.'
Laloo Prasad, who was in Delhi today, did not comment.
However, by neither naming the person who had approached him nor initiating action, Justice Variava has revived a debate in judicial circles.
'A judge who makes such a statement in the court should logically initiate action. But Justice Variava has a precedent as Justice (J.S.) Varma too had made a similar statement and left the matter at that,' said retired Supreme Court judge Kuldip Singh, who now heads the delimitation commission.
When Justice Varma, now retired, was hearing the Jain hawala case, he had said in court that 'someone' had approached him.
Another retired judge said the warning in the open court can 'discourage any future attempt to influence the course of the case'.
Justice Kuldip Singh said: 'Of course, this method can also be adopted but someone should bell the cat.'