Cash For Favourable Judgement: Pune Court Remands Arrested Judge To 5 Days Police Custody In Bribery Case; ‘Need To Unearth Hidden Network’

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Mubarak Ansari

Pune, 1 April 2021: A special court today remanded arrested Judicial Magistrate (First Class) Archana Jatkar to police custody till April 5 in connection with a bribery case.

After her anticipatory bail application was rejected by the Supreme Court, Jatkar surrendered before the Pune unit of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) at 11 am today. 

ACP Sima Mehendale, who is investigating the case, produced JMFC Jatkar before the court of special judge SR Navander at Pune District Court in Shivajinagar seeking her six days of police custody. 

“This court has specifically observed that there is a strong prima facie case against the accused, there appears serious conspiracy which needs to be excavated. It is also observed that there is a hidden network that is working and it needs to be traced out and hence custodial interrogation of the applicant (Jatkar) is necessary. For that reason only, the anticipatory bail application came to be rejected by this court on February 23. Similar are the observations of the Honourable High Court in an order dated 03/03/2021”, Judge Navander said. 

Advocate SS Nikam, who represented JMFC Jatkar, argued that the other accused in the case have been interrogated in police custody, entire evidence has already been collected and therefore her custodial interrogation is not necessary. She is ready to co-operate with the investigating officer and make herself available for inquiry.

Public Prosecutor Vilas Ghogare-Patil demanded her police custody on the ground that there is a big network that needs to be busted. “We have witnesses who have stated that there are 7-8 more land-related matters in which earlier arrested accused Shubhavari Gaikwad (private person) had approached them on behalf of JMFC Jatkar to settle the cases and get a judgement in their favour. ACB has to seize the mobile phone of Jatkar. She had spoken to Gaikwad 147 times, with other arrested accused Police Inspector (dismissed) Jadhav 18 times. In the conversation, JMFC Jatkar has taken names of Judge Deshmukh and Ajay Gopinathan and ACB has to investigate about it”, the public prosecutor said.

After hearing both sides, Judge Navander said, “At this juncture, it is necessary to note that the present accused is the key person of the crime. The actions of the other accused were depending upon her moves and directions. The Investigating Officer has specifically stated that she has to interrogate the accused not only regarding the incident mentioned in the present crime but some other instances also, the mobile found with the accused has to be seized, her connections with the other accused have to be searched and for that purpose inquiry of accused is necessary while in custody. On going through the case diary, what can be noted is that it is not a single transaction in which there is the involvement of the present accused. It is not a single instance that can be just inquired and closed. Considering the scope of the investigation, custodial interrogation of the accused is absolutely necessary, it cannot be dispensed with only because the accused is a Judicial Officer. The status of a particular person cannot become a hurdle for the investigation.”

He remanded JMFC Jatkar to police custody till April 5, 2021.

The FIR in the case is registered at Dehuroad police station for offences under section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. 

ACB has already arrested Shubhavari Bhalchandra Gaikwad (29) of Talegaon, Sushant Baban Kenjale (35) of Ravet, dismissed Police Inspector Bhanudas alias Anil Jadhav of Mumbai. They are currently lodged in jail under magisterial custody remand (MCR). Ajay Gopinathan of Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, is wanted in the case.

Brief facts of the case:­ Complainant Swapnil Madhukar Shevkar, a resident of Induri in Maval taluka of Pune district, is running a milk dairy in the name ‘Kadjai Mata Dudh Sankalan’. He used to supply milk to Amul Dairy of Khed, Pune district. Accused no.1, Shubhavari Gaikwad, approached the complainant on 4/1/2021 and 5/1/2021, falsely pretending herself to be ‘Mhatre Madam’ and told him that there is a criminal case filed against him before JMFC Jatkar at Vadgaon Maval court.

Accused No.1 also shown him a copy of the criminal complaint and pointed out that it was posted for hearing on 6/1/2021. She gave assurance to get dismissed the criminal case by managing the Presiding Officer i.e. Jatkar, by making payment of Rs 5,00,000­. When the complainant showed displeasure, she reduced the amount of the bribe to Rs 3,00,000­. 

The complainant, therefore, approached the office of the Anti­corruption Bureau (ACB) on 6/1/2021 and filed a complaint of demand of bribe. The complaint was verified by the investigating officer in presence of two panch witnesses on 8/1/2021, 9/1/2021 and 11/1/2021. During verification, accused No.1 also contacted the Jatkar and finally demand of Rs 3,00,000­ was made. Verification panchanamas were prepared. On 13/1/2021 trap was laid on accused No.1 in presence of panch witnesses. In the said trap, accused No.1 accepted bribe amount, which was consisting of real cash of Rs 50,000 and duplicate notes of Rs 2,50,000­. Immediately, the accused No.1 was taken into custody. When the hands of the accused No.1 were checked under the ultraviolet lamp, those were found shining with the anthracene powder. 

Accordingly, trap panchanama was prepared. Thereafter, FIR was registered and the accused was formally arrested and interrogated in police custody. The name of Jatkar was added as an accused to the crime. Apprehending arrest, she approached the District Court seeking anticipatory bail. However, it was rejected and she moved to the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court, which also rejected her pre-arrest bail application.