Former Chief Justice YK Sabharwal gets Prime Property in Delhi- Judicial Scam

Ex-CJIs sons get prime property in Delhi,but they never bid for it

Manoj Mitta | TNN

Justice Sabharwal

New Delhi: The two sons of the former Chief Justice of India,YK Sabharwal,under probe for their business deals,suddenly came to buy a Rs 122 crore property here four months ago,thanks to controversial orders passed by the Delhi high court.
Chetan and Nitin Sabharwal,with partner Kabul Chawla,chief of real estate company BPTP,turned out to be the ultimate beneficiaries of HC orders passed since 2006 in connection with the auction of the 2.7-acre property at 7 Sikandra Road.
An appeal challenging the April 2010 sale deed revealed they had not participated in an auction in September 2006,in which a twojudge bench declared Triveni Infrastructure the highest bidder.Triveni was required to pay 25% of its bid amount,Rs 117 crore,within a week and the rest in three weeks,subject to the property being converted from leasehold to freehold.
But Triveni became liable to pay the 75% component only in February 2009 as it took so long for the property to be converted to freehold.It was then that a succession of single-judge orders resulted in the payment being made,with a Rs 5 crore penalty,in April 2010,that too by the two Sabharwals and Chawla although they had no formal stake in Triveni.

Ex-CJIs sons didnt take part in auction,yet acquired property

New Delhi: An appeal challenging the April 2010 sale deed revealed that the three partners,including the two sons of former CJI Y K Sabharwal,had not participated in an auction in September 2006 on which a two-judge bench declared Triveni Infrastructure the highest bidder.
The appeal being heard by a special bench,headed by Justice A K Sikri,shed light on the various ways in which the 2006 order had been bypassed,particularly by Justice Manmohan Singh,leading to a windfall for the Sabharwal brothers and Chawla:
When the owners of the property filed a contempt application against Triveni for its failure to pay the balance in February 2009,Justice Manmohan Singh gave more time to the defaulter directing that it would have to pay Rs 3 crore by July-end and Rs 85 crore by October-end.Later,he extended the time further to Decemberend with a penalty of Rs 5 crore.
The repeated extension of the deadline by Justice Manmohan Singh was contrary to the division benchs direction that if the highest bidder failed to make the payments on time,the property would have to be sold to the next highest bidder,Prime Commercial.
In June 2009,Justice Manmohan Singh allowed a four-day old company,Angle Infrastructure,to come in place of Triveni for paying the balance and to take over the property.The owners of the property appealed against this order as it had been passed without any notice to them.
A week before the expiry of the December 2009 deadline,Justice Manmohan Singh gave a fresh extension to Angle,this time by five months.He also granted Angles request to introduce the condition that it would be required to pay the balance only when the owners were in a position to deliver immediate possession of the property.Most of the owners challenged this order,again because it had been passed without any notice to them.
A month before the expiry of the May 2010 deadline,Triveni and Angle filed a joint application requesting that the balance be allowed to be paid by the Sabharwals and Chawla and that the property be registered in their names.Since the Sabharwal brothers and Chawla appeared in the court with demand drafts of the balance amount,Justice Rajiv Shakdher directed the owners on April 20 to execute the sale deed within two days.
That is how the Sabharwal brothers and Chawla acquired the property from an auction in which they had not participated at all.


2 Responses to Former Chief Justice YK Sabharwal gets Prime Property in Delhi- Judicial Scam

  1. Allegations of Real Estate Operations by his sons

    During the 2006 Delhi sealing drive, the Supreme Court under Sabharwal demonstrated extraordinary zeal in demolishing a slarge number of commercial properties which were illegally running in residential areas. There were very extensive protests every day, and considerable political pressure, due to which demolitions would often be hindered. The court monitored events and regularly reprimanded the Municipal Corporation of Delhi for its tardy progress. As a consequence of the extensive bulldozing of buildings, legal commercial properties, as in the new shopping malls, rose dramatically in price[3]. Particularly, luxury store owners and other upscale businesses were very keen to get into the limited mall floor space.
    In May 2007, five months after Sabharwal retired from the bench, the afternoon newspaper Mid-Day brought out a series of articles that presented documents showing that YK Sabharwal’s sons, Chetan and Nitin Sabharwal, owned at least four small ventures, most of them oriented towards garment exports, but one in the construction arena. During Sabharwal’s tenure as Chief justice, two of these firms suddenly attracted the interest of the very largest players in the shopping mall industry.
    The first firm, Pawan Impex, Pvt Ltd, was registered for some time at Justice Sabharwal’s official bungalow in the heart of Delhi, and later at his private house. Having the firm registered at his government-furnished house may have been illegal[4]. In a newspaper editorial on Sept 2, 2007, Justice Sabharwal has said that he asked his sons to shift the registered address as soon as he found out about it[5], but in an interview recorded by Mid-Day in April 2007, after the shift, he claims complete ignorance about the matter[4].
    More damaging is the fact that Pawan Impex, which had remained with a capitalization of 0.1 million Rs. since its founding in 2002, suddenly attracted the interest of Kabul and Anjali Chawla, owners of the large and rapidly growing real estate firm Business Park Town Planners (BPTP)[6] which had promoted large malls like Park Centra (Gurgaon), Next Door (Faridabad), and the Parklands Shop-In Park (North Delhi). In June 2006, at the peak of the Supreme Court interest in the 2006 Delhi sealing drive, the Chawla’s invested in Park Impex, raising the Share Capital 300 fold to Rs. 30 million, with equal shares between the original promoters and the Chawlas[7][8]. Two months later, in August, the company obtained a loan of Rs. 280 million by a bank which happens to be a tenant of a BPTP property. These allegations appear to be well documented in a set of papers released by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability[9] and were not addressed in Justice Sabharwal’s public response[5], though he did mention that his sons were creating an IT Mall. After the partnership with BPTP in June 2007 Pawan Impex purchased 4 acres (16,000 m2) of land in NOIDA on which this IT Mall is being constructed; Mid-Day reports it to be a Rs. 560 million project with 300,000 sq ft (28,000 m2). saleable floor area[2].
    A second firm, Harpawan Constructors, equally unknown, had also been promoted by the brothers. In October 2005, the promoters of Filatex India, a polyester yarn firm with a turnover of Rs. 3 billion in FY 2007, Purshottam and Madhu Sudan Bhageria, also the owners of real estate firm Fargo Estates, invested in Harpawan. Subsequently, the Bhagerias announced plans for developing the Square One, a mall devoted to luxury brands in Delhi. Justice Sabharwal has said that Purshottam Bhageria was his son’s childhood friend, and that Harparwan Construction, despite its name, has not made any real estate or other investments[5].
    The business of Chetan and Nitin expanded dramatically after 2005. Besides setting up several garment manufacturing factories, they have embarked on a massive real estate programme in NOIDA.
    Possibly the largest project for Pawan Impex is the Rs. 560 million IT Mall being constructed in Noida. In the application to construct this mall, they had given the turnover and business of their company as “Nil”. Their application for constructing this mall was approved rather mysteriously, given that in the application they had declared their company to be “Nil turnover” and “Nil business”[4]. An earlier applicant, Softedge Solutions, had been rejected on the ground that they could not satisfactorily answer questions about their previous experience in IT and their technical tie up. But Pawan Impex represented by Chetan Sabharwal with Nil business, no previous track record in IT and no technical tie up, managed to obtain permission. [4]
    [edit]Conflict of Interest charges
    Whatever the facts of the case, it is widely felt that Justice Sabharwal’s being active in such decisions when his sons were even partly involved in the Delhi real estate business lacked propriety, and that he should have recused himself from these cases. To the contrary, the Outlook (magazine) printed a report claiming that he had “called for and dealt with the sealing of commercial property cases in March 2005, though it was not assigned to him.”[4].
    The actions have been condemned as being at best improper and at worst an attempt “to benefit his sons who entered into partnerships with shopping malls and developers of commercial complexes”[10]. Former Solicitor General KK Sud called this behaviour “the height of indiscretion.”[11]
    In terms of the content of the charges, the most damaging aspect is the participation of the shopping mall construction giant BPTP in his son’s export-import business. Both the Chawla’s were on the board of the firm by early 2005, around the same time that Sabharwal started taking interest in the demolition drive. What is surprising is that while Justice Sabharwal in his justification[5] addresses the other two (lesser) charges in some detail, but he is completely silent about the BPTP connection.
    [edit]Jail term for two Journalists, cartoonist, publisher

    In September 2007, four Mid-Day journalists were sentenced to prison by the Delhi High Court for contempt of court (making such allegations about an ex-judge)[12]. The scribes said: “We stated facts in our stories. (in the articles relating to former Chief Justice of India Y K Sabharwal) and that is why we should not be hauled up for contempt. The laws in the country are outdated.” The contempt laws in India do not rely on truth as the primary test for judging contempt. The columns were also somewhat tongue-in-cheek, accompanied also by a cartoon (the cartoonist has also been sentenced to four months in jail).

    Justice R S Sodhi and Justice B N Chaturvedi of the Delhi High Court, in their judgement, said: “We feel, in this peculiar case, the contemnors have tarnished the image of the highest court and the sentence of four months’ imprisonment would serve the justice.” M K Tayal, senior journalist, said, “The judges did not go into the merits of the argument. They did not apply their minds while delivering the judgement.”[13]. “The Supreme Court in its judgement has clearly laid down the Laxman Rekha which we feel the publications have crossed.” (The Laxman Rekha is a Ramayanic reference to a line that should not be crossed). However, the defendants had already processed their bail requests from the Supreme Court, and they were immediately released on bail. Tayal and three others are no more associated with Mid Day. It appears that the management of the newspaper compromised with Sabharwal and BPTP. Tayal, a former Indian army officer, objected Mid Day’s policy of refraining from exposing more about the dealings of ex-CJI. Mid Day’s MD Tariq Answari had written a note regarding the newspaper not carrying any more article on Sabharwal.
    About the judgement, ex-law minister Shanti Bhushan stated that Parliament had in 2006 amended the Contempt of Courts Act to say that “if the allegations against a judge were found to be true, then they would not be considered contemptuous”. In view of this, the judgement, he said, may be “only aimed at terrifying the media and an attempt to curb truthfulness.”[10]

    In any event, the decision of four months imprisonment for the reporters, without establishing the falsity of the reportage, has only brought the matter into far more intense public scrutiny.

  2. Vice-president asks govt to probe ex-CJI’s assets
    Vice-president Mohammad Hamid Ansari has asked the Union home ministry to look into a complaint that seeks an investigation into assets of former Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan.

    Balakrishnan was appointed National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) chairman after he retired from the CJI’s post on May 12, 2010. On June 21, this year, the Vice-President’s secretariat under secretary Mahitab Singh wrote a letter to home secretary G.K. Pillai, saying: “I am directed to forward herewith the representation dated 5th May, 2010 of Dr M.

    Furquan… regarding investigation of assets of former CJI, addressed to the Hon’ble Vice-President of India for your appropriate attention. “Commenting on the complaint, Balakrishnan said: “Whatever property and assets I have are well declared. Nothing is there for me to hide.”

    In a five-page complaint to the Vice-President, Furquan, a Delhi-based journalist, sought a CBI investigation against Balakrishnan and his family ” for finding out how much financial assets they have (allegedly) accumulated since he took over as the CJI”.

    Furquan claimed that the assets declared by Balakrishnan is “far below the actual assets he and his family now own”. According to Balakrishnan’s asset declaration put up on the Supreme Court website along with those of other judges, he owns two houses and agricultural land in his native Kerala, a residential plot worth Rs 4.50 lakh in Faridabad and family property valued at Rs 3.5 lakh.

    His wife Nirmala also has land in Kerala.

    Other than this, he also said the family owned 20 sovereigns of gold jewellery and a 2000- model Santro car.

    A vice-president’s office source confirmed the representation was forwarded to the home ministry for appropriate action, but said: ” We are still to get an acknowledgement from them (the home ministry)”. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs officials refused to comment on the letter seeking possible action against Balakrishnan.

    Additional secretary Dileep Raj S. Chaudhary, who was appointed as MHA spokesperson in July, refused to give the status of the complaint despite the fact that he was shown the V-P office letter referred to the Union home secretary on Thursday.

    “I’m not expected to chase any information which a journalist brings,” Chaudhary, a 1977-batch Madhya Pradesh cadre IAS officer, said.

    The home secretary was also not available for comment despite a request made to his North Block office on Thursday.

    Furquan’s letter to the V-P contains serious allegations against the former CJI and his family members.

    At present two committees constituted by Ansari, who is also the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, are holding impeachment proceedings against Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Sen and Sikkim high court chief justice Paul Daniel Dinakaran.

    Though previous chief justices such as Madan Mohan Punchi, A. S. Anand, Y. K. Sabharwal have courted controversy, the V- P’s move for a possible inquiry against Balakrishnan comes in the backdrop of a Bill pending in Parliament on making judges more accountable.

    The present form of the draft Bill states that a complaint against a judge should be referred to the V- P. The Bill lays down the procedure for initiating punitive action against Supreme Court and high court judges since as of now they can only be impeached, which seldom happens as it is a cumbersome and lengthy process.

    In July 2009, the Supreme Court had dismissed a petition questioning Balakrishnan’s appointment on the grounds that he did not fulfill the criteria laid down in the Constitution for the appointment of high court judges.

    A two- member bench headed by Justice R. V. Raveendran did not entertain the petition filed by Kerala lawyer P. A. Chandran on the grounds that it was filed after 24 years.

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