A senior civil judge of Tis Hazari Courts who was arrested by the CBI in a bribery case on September 29 was granted bail by a Special Court Monday. The court granted bail to judge Rachna Tiwari Lakhanpal on a bond of Rs 50,000. The CBI arrested judge Lakhanpal, her husband Alok, a practising advocate, and another advocate, Vikas Mehan, in the case and accused them of striking a deal in connection with a property case she was adjudicating.
Judge Lakhanpal’s defence counsel questioned the manner in which the CBI laid the “trap” and carried out the raid on her house.
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Seeking bail for her before Special Judge Sanjeev Aggarwal, senior counsel Vikas Pahwa argued that when the CBI raided the house of the Lakhanpals, Mehan had already been arrested and was in CBI custody. The possibility of influencing the arrested accused, therefore, cannot be negated, he said.
“His offence was over as soon as he was arrested accepting money from a third party,” the senior lawyer argued.
According to the CBI, the agency laid a trap in which Mehan, who was appointed as a Local Commissioner by the accused judge, was caught red-handed while demanding and accepting Rs 5 lakh as bribe on behalf of the judge.
Pahwa argued that the “second trap”, which led to the judge’s arrest, was carried out two hours after Mehan was arrested and in custody. “Can the second trap be considered when the accused was already in custody?” asked Pahwa. He also argued that 50 out of 100 times when a judge passes an order, litigants are disgruntled and, as a result, this may very well mean that she is being falsely implicated.
This possibility, though prima facie, cannot be ignored, he added. Pahwa also argued that when she was produced in the court after her arrest, the CBI did not press for police remand and sought judicial custody.
“The appointment of Mehan as the Local Commissioner took place in January, 2015, and his arrest happened in September, 2016… Why was he not arrested at that time?” asked Pahwa. He said there was no direct involvement of the judge in the conspiracy and it was based on Mehan’s alleged testimony.
The defence counsel pointed to a proviso in Section 437 of the Code of Criminal Procedure that talks about bail to women. The CBI contested the defence arguments, saying in such cases a direct demand was not necessary. According to the investigating agency, WhatsApp messages between the judge and Mehan showed their complicity and conspiracy.
“When she got the money, she threw it in the bushes outside the kitchen,” said the CBI lawyer, insisting that a “direct demand” was not seen in such cases. The CBI lawyer added the seriousness of the offence was reflected from the punishment of 10 years it entailed. The lawyer also argued that being a judge, she could influence witnesses.
The CBI had raided the Lakhanpals’ residence at Gulabi Bagh judicial complex and recovered Rs 93.6 lakh, said sources. According to the sources, Rs 60 lakh was recovered from a bedroom and the rest from the children’s room.