Raising questions of propriety, a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court last month called up a senior Enforcement Directorate (ED) officer, who is also the investigator in an alleged money laundering case, in which the role of the judge’s own wife could soon be looked at.
The Indian Express has learnt that there exists official communication with details of the phone call received by Gopesh Byadwal, ED assistant director, Chandigarh, from Justice Hemant Gupta on March 16.
In the phone call, made through the the mobile phone of his secretary, Dalbir Singh, the judge — he is the third most senior judge in the Punjab and Haryana High Court — asks the officer about ongoing inquiries into RMC Printers Pvt Ltd, a company in which the judge’s wife, Alka Gupta, was a director until June 27, 2009.
The ED is currently investigating a money laundering case in which the accused include HC lawyer Mukesh Mittal and many others, including his clerks and family members. Mukesh Mittal’s brother Chetan Mittal is the Assistant Solicitor General for the Government of India in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Sometime back, the ED had also sought information about RMC Printers Pvt Ltd from the Chandigarh administration. There are documents to show financial transactions between the Mittal family and the judge’s wife and his late mother, Bimla Devi.
In his note submitted to his seniors “for directions”, Byadwal says that around 10.15 am on March 16, he got a call from a mobile phone and the caller introduced himself as the secretary to Justice Hemant Gupta. Singh told Byadwal that the judge wanted to speak to him.
After the officer told him that he was driving his car, Singh said he would call again after half-an-hour.
“Later on, at about 11.30 hours on the same day, he called me again from his mobile. He put me to another person who said that he is Justice Sh Hemant Gupta and told me that he has read news report regarding ED seeking records of a company namely RMC Printers Pvt Ltd. He suggested me to meet with him for discussion about the said company and therefore he offered me that if I agreed then he may come to the ED office, otherwise I have to go to the High Court or his house to meet him,” Byadwal said in his note.
He informed the judge that “his presence in this office” was not warranted and that if need be, he would go to him “along with my senior officers”.
“Justice Sh Hemant Gupta was insisting to fix a time for the meeting to which I replied that I will inform/convey his secretary about the time and place of meeting,” the note stated.
Sources in the ED said Byadwal brought the incident to the notice of Girish Bali, Joint Director, Chandigarh Zone, who asked him to verify the authenticity of the caller.
“Later on, as desired by the JDE/CDZO sitting in the JLZO, I verified the authenticity of the said call (mobile number 97******77) and it was found that the same was of Sh Dalbir Singh, Secretary to the hon’ble Justice Sh Hemant Gupta,” the officer told his seniors.
In the same note, he also said he was not in a “position to face” a senior HC judge and asked his superiors to take further action/direction as deemed fit to “meet” the judge.
While Byadwal could not be reached for comment, Joint Director Bali said: “I cannot confirm or deny anything. It is a sensitive case and investigations are still on.”