Judicial Accountability At Stake? Story Of Ex-Chief Justice On Reliance Pay Roll
The article was first published at: India Samvad
It is a series of super bails and super acquittals. First film star Salman Khan then political stalwart Jaya Lalitha and today business tycoon Ramalinga Raju getting their biggest judicial relief of life. We would not comment on these decisions of respective High Courts but will tell you another story. The story is not about granting bail to any VIP but about a Chief Justice of a High Court. The story is more about moral values and about corporate obligations.
But first a quick recap. It’s an open secret that Dhirubhai Ambani’s Reliance Industries was born out of a string of legal hassles. From stock market rigging to smuggling of factory machines, Reliance fought pitched battles with investigative agencies in Mumbai courts and won each of the case one by one. Operating from Mumbai, the Reliance Industries obviously had most of its court cases locked in the Bombay High Court. This story is also about a Chief Justice of the same High Court.
India Samvad has documents to show that how country’s biggest and richest company, the Reliance Industries operates in the judicial fraternity. The documents reveal that Bombay High Court’s most influential Chief Justice KR Vyas was well known to Reliance. India Samvad does not intend to comment on Vyas-Reliance relations or about Justice Vyas’ bail orders or his judgments on corporate matters but wish to confine to the confidential letter which speaks louder than words.
The letter of Reliance signed by Group President (Corporate Affairs) Parimal Nathwani addressed to Justice KR Vyas mentions, “ I am pleased to inform you that your consultancy is further extended for one year i.e. upto April 30, 2015.” In simple words, the letter reveals that Justice Vyas was receiving hefty amounts from Reliance in the form of consultancy. Seeing the dubious track record of Reliance several other retired Judges who were approached by Dhirubhai’s successors had refused to be on company’s payroll.
Justice Kshitij R Vyas was formerly a Judge of Gujarat High Court. On February 2006, he was elevated to the Bombay High Court as the Chief Justice. Sources said that Justice Vyas was not only close to Mukesh Ambani but also to the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi. On recommendations of Modi, Justice Vyas was appointed as the Chairman of the monitoring authority overseeing fake encounters in Gujarat. However in a setback to Modi, Supreme Court removed Justice Vyas from the chair. It was a rare decision by a Supreme Court bench as a Chief Justice, whether retired or serving, has never been snubbed by the apex court in such a manner.
Justice Vyas was also caught in a web of controversy when his name was rejected by Congress for being the Lokayukt of Gujarat. However, the candidate rejected in Gujarat was later selected as the Lokayukt of Maharashtra.