Kochi: Three judges of the Kerala High Court have been dragged into an unsavoury bribery scandal by a senior lawyer who apparently indulged in conduct unbecoming of his profession.
The early police probe hints that a thriving racket is likely behind the case as per which the latter, Adv Saiby Jose Kidangoor, took bribes under the guise of bribing three HC judges to influence the verdict.
A previous Intelligence Bureau report had alerted about similar practices, but was ignored.
As per the witness accounts, four lawyers, including Adv Saiby, and a former Government pleader conspired to cheat the clients and commit fraud.
Sources hinted at the possibility of more lawyers being included in the list of accused in the case in which Advocate Saiby is the main accused. The latter is the president of the Kerala High Court Advocates Association.
Adv Saiby allegedly deceived his clients of Rs 77 lakh in the guise of paying bribes for obtaining favourable verdicts. This was corroborated by the statements of other lawyers included in the preliminary inquiry report submitted by the Kochi Police Commissioner to State Police Chief Anil Kant.
The investigation team on Thursday filed an FIR (First Information Report) against under Section 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code and relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act before the Muvattupuzha Vigilance Court.
The FIR levelled two charges against Saiby — indulging in bribery (under Section 7 (A) under the Prevention of Corruption Act) and cheating and dishonesty inducing delivery of property or money (Section 420 IPC).
The maximum punishment that can be awarded to the accused for the offenses is seven years imprisonment, along with a fine.
IB had alerted Home Department
Though the Intelligence Bureau had reported such fraud to the Home Department two years ago, the authorities failed to act for long.
But things took a turn with a HC judge himself demanding a probe now after allegations of Saiby receiving Rs 25 lakh from a film producer involved in a sexual abuse case in the former’s name came to his notice.
A high-level police probe was instituted after a decision for the same was taken in a full court meeting of the High Court. Also, lawyers came forward to submit shreds of evidence during a preliminary probe held by HC Vigilance wing.
Though there were some efforts to force the lawyers to change their witness statements, they handed over more evidence to the investigating agencies which paved the way for registering an FIR.
The cops have recorded statements from 10 lawyers.