NEW DELHI: A special court here on Thursday sent Senior Civil Judge Rachna Tiwari Lakhanpal to 14 days judicial custody on allegations of illegal gratification. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) accused Lakhanpal, a sitting judge at Tis Hazari District Court (THC), of allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs. 20 lakhs.
The CBI also arrested the judge’s husband Alok, a criminal lawyer and Vishal Mehan, a court commissioner (CC) appointed by her on charges of corruption.
In its press release, the BI stated, “A case was registered U/s 7 & 8 of P. C. Act, 1988 against the Advocate on a complaint alleging that in a matter being heard by a Senior Civil Judge (West), Tis Hazari Courts, Delhi, she had appointed an advocate as Local Commissioner for conducting an inspection of the disputed property and submitting his report. The Advocate (appointed as Local Commissioner) allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs.2 Lakh for himself as well as Rs.20 Lakhs for the said Senior Civil Judge for deciding the matter in the favour of complainant.”
Acting on the complaint, the CBI laid a trap and arrested Mehan when he was accepting a bribe. During his interrogation, Mehan confessed and claimed that he was allegedly acting on directions of the judge. The Lakhanpal’s were then arrested when Mehan delivered their share of the money to them. The CBI further conducted a raid at Lakhanpal’s residence at around 2 am on the intervening night of September 28 and 29 and recovered almost Rs. 94 lakhs, two locker keys and other material. Sources close to the case claim that almost Rs. 60 lakhs were recovered from Lakhanpal’s bedroom, whereas the remaining amount was found in their sons’ room.
Special Judge (CBI) Sanjeev Agarwal allowed CBI’s plea and remanded Alok and Mehan to two days police custody. “Source of huge recovery of Rs. 94 lakhs is yet to be established and the investigation is at a very nascent stage, therefore fair investigations and interest of justice requires two days PC remand each be granted,” the court said.
“Regarding Ms. Rachna Tiwari Lakhanpal only judicial remand has been sought, as it is stated that the investigation qua her is at initial stage and she may influence witnesses and tamper with the evidence,” the court added.
According to sources, the complaint was registered on September 27. During the raids, two independent witnesses – one official from the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and a government schoolteacher, were present at the time.
Sources within the CBI state that the matter involved a property at Saraswati Garden in West Delhi’s Kirti Nagar area. Apparently, the judge had appointed Mehan as a CC to inspect the property and submit his report. This report is crucial since it becomes a part of the judicial report. A judge would then base his, or her final order based on the submissions made in the report.
Court sources claim that Rachna Lakhanpal, who started out as a public prosecutor, was elevated to the position a judge and rose through the ranks to become a senior civil judge. It was rumoured that she was going to be promoted to the position of the Additional District Judge (ADJ)when the new round of promotions would be announced in the next few months to come.
Alok Lakhanpal and Mehan will be produced in court on Saturday, whereas Rachna will be produced on October 13.