New Delhi: The Orissa High Court chief justice has received a complaint against one of the judges on his roster, Justice Biswanath Rath, over “misuse of power and position”, ThePrint has learnt.
The allegation against Justice Rath comes after a letter was sent to local judges and collectors of eight districts and the state’s endowment commissioner to arrange and oversee a private temple tour for the judge’s brother, advocate J.N. Rath, on 12-13 June.
ThePrint accessed the letter which was addressed to the district judges and collectors of Kalahandi, Bolangir, Bargarh, Sambalpur, Sonepur (Subarnapur), Angul, Dhenkanal and Cuttack. It was sent by the Orissa high court deputy registrar (administration and protocol), Chhayakanta Dash.
The letter dated 11 June asked all the district judges and collectors to “make necessary arrangements to receive and see off of the brother of the judge, and to reserve 1 AC suite of rooms in favour of the brother of the judge in all of these districts”.
It gave directions for arrangements to be made to temples in the state such as Lord Harishankar Temple, Lord Nrusinghanath temple and Maa Ghateshwari temple, among others.
The judges, collectors and the endowment commissioner were also directed to make “necessary arrangements for the Darshan and Puja at all of these temples”.
‘Attempt to defame’
Justice Biswanath Rath’s brother confirmed to ThePrint that he did visit the temples. He said the directions in the letter were part of the “usual protocol of arranging accommodation for the family of judges when travelling”.
“I did travel from 12 to 13 June but such kind of requests for the arrangement of the stay of the judges’ family is a normal process. It was a completely paid trip and I paid for all the accommodation expenses,” said advocate Rath.
“Of course, it is the prerogative of the Chief Justice of HC now but I have dedicated my years of experience as a lawyer for the betterment of the society and there can be no allegations against me,” he added.
“This is just a malicious attempt to defame me and my brother.”
‘Violation of judicial ethics’
The advocate’s comments came after Jayanta Kumar Das, a former IAF officer and a rights activist, wrote to Orissa Chief Justice Kalpesh Satyendra Jhaveri on 15 June to institute an inquiry committee to look into the contents of the letter.
Seeking action against Justice Rath, including “impeachment”, Das said “such kind of behaviour should not be tolerated in the largest democracy of the world where citizens are the owner and the boss”.
“…the brother of the judge enjoy(s) the service of 8 IAS officers 8 district judges and countless other public servants free of cost like in elite and important guest of the state of Orissa (sic),” said Das in his letter dated 15 June.
Das sought action against Justice Rath “within stipulated time”.
“Misuse of power and position of working judges” is a serious offence and it is a gross violation of the judicial ethics under restatement of values of judicial life, added Das in his letter.
“Odisha has 30 districts with a population of 4.5 crore. More than 26 per cent district judges & collectors of Odisha with their staff gave their valuable time to serve the brother of the judge,” Das told ThePrint.
“I hope the chief justice constitutes an inquiry committee under ‘In-House Procedure’ to inquire the violation of ‘judicial ethics’ by Justice Biswanath Rath.”
Poor state of judiciary in Odisha
The complaint letter has come just after a month-long strike of lawyers in Odisha, and reports that the state figured among top 10 in the country in pendency of criminal cases
The Orissa High Court currently has are 14 judges, against a sanctioned strength of 27. The pendency of cases stands at 1.7 lakh.
A report last month said unfavourably that Odisha stood at sixth place in the country when it came to pendency of criminal cases for over a decade in subordinate courts.
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