Monday, 19 September 2016

Judge Indrajit Mahanty's incestuous ties with Trade Unionist Biswajit Mohanty

19th September, 2016, Cuttack: Justice Indrajit Mahanty – the second-seniormost judge of Orissa High Court -- hears cases and gives orders that enrich his brother Biswajit Mohanty, a well-known lobbyist for private educational institutions. Justice I Mahanty's many interim orders are in alignment with the commercial and political interests of his brother. Judges are expected to recuse himself from hearing cases where their kith and kin's interests are involved, but Justice Indrajit Mahanty overrides such niceties without batting an eyelid.

Indrajit Mahanty and Biswajit Mohanty are both sons of Barrister Ranjit Mohanty, and are both inheritors of the Barrister Ranjit Mohanty Group of Institutions. While Indrajit Mahanty is not directly hands-on in the education business, Biswajit Mohanty is chairman of the BRM Trust and runs many private educational institutes such as BRM International Institute of Technology (BRM-IIT). Biswajit Mohanty is also a trade unionist and lobbyist, who heads Odisha Technical College Association (OTCA), which lobbies for filling up more seats in such colleges, along with Odisha Private Engineering College Association (OPECA). OPECA files public interest litigations, writ petitions etc, while OTCA and Biswajit Mahanty maintain a slightly low-key presence. While their lobbying poses as championing the students' rights, bear in mind that more filled-up seats means fatter profits for Biswajit Mohanty and his fellow "educationists".

For the past 7-8 years, OTCA and OPECA are at loggerheads with Orissa state government, which is keen on making the CBSE-conducted Joint Entrance Examinations (JEE) the only criterion for filling engineering seats. The Orissa High Court division bench headed by Justice Indrajit Mahanty has leaned in favour of OTCA and OPECA. In 2014, Supreme Court stayed Orissa High Court's orders for holding a special JEE i.e. OJEE, but in 2014, 2015 and 2016, the high court division bench (which inevitably had Justice Indrajit Mahanty even while other judges, like Justice DP Choudhury and Justice BK Nayak, changed), ordered that a special OJEE (Orissa JEE) be conducted for seats remaining vacant after the JEE (Mains) counselling. 

 

It is strange that although news items regularly appear about what Biswajit Mohanty says about JEE, and what orders Justice Indrajit Mahanty passes about JEE for that particular academic year, the media takes care to avoid mentioning the two brothers names in the same news item! The public may be fooled by this conspiracy of silence, but political parties are not fooled. Recognizing the value of his demonstrated power to sway the high court, BJP lovingly embraced "Pugi-bhai" Biswajit Mohanty in 2015, amist loud drama-baazi.

Being highly educated, intellectual and articulate, Judge Indrajit Mahanty understands the conflict of interest in hearing cases tied up with his brother's business. With open eyes, Justice I Mahanty keeps dishonouring his constitutional oath of office, whereby he swore to serve the country "without fear of favour". Thankfully, whistleblowers are giving us lots of documents to build up a convincing case for impeaching this Orissa High Court judge.

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao
9821588114
krish.kkphoto@gmail.com

Friday, 9 September 2016

Can IT summon Judge Indrajit Mahanty for questioning?

10th September, 2016, Cuttack: One is puzzled by the accounting treatment for Justice Indrajit Mahanty's Rs 2.5 crore working-capital loan for his hotel, The Triple C. Lakhs of rupees are withdrawn and repaid every month in two SBI loan accounts in the name of "Justice Indrajit Mahanty" and strangely, not in the name of Latest Generation Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., the company that has leased the hotel from him. As a High Court judge, Justice I. Mahanty gets a monthly salary of Rs. 1.35 lakhs, and therefore is liable to pay Income Tax. But repayment of principal plus interest could reduce or eliminate his taxable income. Suppose his tax returns are dodgy, can Income Tax authorities summon his lordship personally for questioning u/s 131 of Income Tax Act, and compel production of his lordship's books of account?

We asked Mr Binoy Gupta, a retired Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (CCA), who holds a Ph.D. in Law. His reply was: "There are no exemptions in any law for any Supreme Court or High Court Judges from any judicial or quasi judicial proceedings. Our department has taken action under the Income Tax Act against them."

We requested Mr Gupta for case studies (with or without the names of the judges) to substantiate his claim of having taken action against judges. His response was: "I can not give any instances today. But I stand by my statement that Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts have no special status so far the applicability of Income Tax Laws are concerned."

And then Mr Gupta added that bringing a judge to justice is a tough job. He wrote: "If any govt. servant engages himself in business, his department can and does take action. But the procedure for taking action against Judges is far too complex... impeachment which is extremely difficult."

Given the absence of case studies and other details of judges being held accountable by Income Tax authorities, our gut feeling is: IT authorities will never dare to summon his lordship, because (a) they would be in awe of a high court judge, and (b) because the high court has superior jurisdiction over the Income Tax department, and not vice versa. Even if judges do not enjoy de jure immunity from quasi-judicial and administrative authorities, they enjoy de facto immunity. No government official will risk rubbing a high court judge the wrong way by questioning him, even if the law permits him to do so!

Justice Indrajit Mahanty may or may not have broken any laws, but he is definitely in breach of the code of ethics on multiple counts. Must we all act like Gandhi's three monkeys and remain silent?

In return for such unquestioned authority and immunity, judges are expected to keep their affairs transparent and straightforward, by abstaining from business activities. Their income should ideally consist of their salaries, and interest on fixed deposits etc. -- nothing more complicated than that. To quote YK Sabharwal, former Chief Justice of India, who spoke on the Judicial Canon of Ethics, "Almost every public servant is governed by certain basic Code of Conduct which includes expectation that he shall maintain absolute integrity... manage his financial affairs in such a manner that he is always free from indebtedness, and not involve himself in transactions relating to property with persons having official dealings with him." Please note that seeking building permissions, bank loans, hotel licenses, etc. etc. are all transactions with the government, administration and public sector, who all have "official dealings" with a high court judge in his judge-like capacity. Such transactions adulterate the purity of Justice Indrajit Mahanty's judgment.

According to the Restatement of Values of Judicial Life (adopted by Full Bench of Supreme Court on 7th May, 1997), "A Judge should not engage directly or indirectly in trade or business, either by himself or in association with any other person. 

And according to the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct, 2002, "A judge shall not only be free from inappropriate connections with, and influence by, the executive and legislative branches of government, but must also appear to a reasonable observer to be free therefrom."

Read all these documents on judicial ethics and in that context, understand the significance of Justice I Mahanty's actions. Justice Indrajit Mahanty may or may not have broken any laws, but he is definitely in breach of ethics on multiple counts. 

So, must we all remain silent like Gandhiji's three monkeys? Must we all adopt a policy of See-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil when it comes to judges? Must the adulteration of our judicial services be allowed to continue under cover of a conspiracy of silence?

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

What if Justice Indrajit Mahanty defaults on his “Debt Burden”?

7th September, 2016, Cuttack: Earlier this week, Justice Indrajit Mahanty of Orissa High Court admitted that he "carries a loan burden for his long-time business outfit", through an opinion piece that was written on his behalf titled "Media sensation at times hits great guys, hurts society" in The Pioneer. (The "loan burden" is a Rs 2.5 crore working-capital loan for his hotel, The Triple C, which was borrowed in 2009 from SBI. Till this day, amounts ranging between one and two lakh rupees are drawn and repaid every month in the name of "Justice Indrajit Mahanty".) The author, clearly adores Justice Mahanty, writes, "As a lawyer, he became too eminent too soon only because of his keen commonsense, command over the English language and the superb manner of making complex Acts simple for judges and clients alike. He drives points home the same way as smart kids do tricycles." The point of the article is that it is acceptable that Justice Indrajit Mahanty has a big business loan to his name, and runs a hotel, because of his love for humanity, and therefore, our article questioning the ethics of his actions is a "terribly misplaced allegation". The author argues, "Yes, there is a loan burden, not a robbery charge. Yes, he ran it to add value by generating employment for many. The only thing people would like to know is whether or not his ‘judicial conduct is appropriate and above board’; whether or not he is selling judgment, and if he has the knowledge and skills to help the suffering humanity."

Is this a reasonable argument?

The implications of a high judge taking a business loan from a bank, and using it to run a hotel, are far-reaching. Although Justice I. Mahanty is only 55 years old, he is already number two in seniority at Orissa High Court. Being the son of well-known Barrister Ranjit Mohanty, he is influential and well-connected in the legal fraternity. In the next 5-10 years, his career track can make him Chief Justice of Orissa HC, a Supreme Court judge and even Chief Justice Of India. 

The Triple-C Hotel can be need not necessarily be a success story. Experienced businessmen like Vijay Mallya often fail to repay the banks; so, is it totally improbable that a part-time businessman like Indrajit Mahanty may fail to pay back what he owes to State Bank Of India?
 

However, The Triple-C Hotel can be need not necessarily be a success story. Experienced businessmen like Vijay Mallya often fail to repay the banks; so, is it totally improbable that a part-time businessman like Indrajit Mahanty may fail to pay back what he owes to State Bank Of India?

What happens if Justice Indrajit Mahanty defaults and the matter goes to Debt Recovery Tribunal?

  1. Does Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) or Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT) get jurisdiction over Justice Indrajit Mahanty? How will Justice Mahanty (who may by then be Chief Justice of Orissa High Court, a Supreme Court judge even Chief Justice of India) be an appellant or defendant before DRT or DRAT?

  2. Does Justice Indrajit Mahanty appear before Orissa High Court? Suppose the order of DRAT is further appealed, can Justice Indrajit Mahanty be an appellant or defendant before Orissa High Court? If not, then what is the proper forum to hear the matter?

  3. Can any tribunal or lower court entertain a matter against any judge of the higher judiciary in respect of his private affairs, such as bank loans or hotel business? Will such proceedings strengthen his public image as a judge, or will it damage it? And what will such cases do to the image of the judiciary?

  4. If a high court or supreme court judge is before a lower court or tribunal, what happens to his superior jurisdiction over such lower court or tribunal? Won't this create a constitutional anomaly?

Apologists and admirers of Justice Indrajit Mahanty, please remember that this is not about one man's goodness or integrity, it is about the integrity of our judiciary as a whole.

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao
9821588114
krish.kkphoto@gmail.com

Friday, 2 September 2016

Mysteries in Justice Indrajit Mahanty's proxy-press-release

Cuttack, 2nd September 2016: Justice Indrajit Mahanty became a judge of Orissa High Court in 2006, and he became a hotelier in 2009. Activist Jayanta Das broke the story on 8th August with documentary evidence given by judiciary whistleblowers. Kamyab TV, an Oriya TV channel, held a panel debate on this issue. In our press release issued three days ago, we asked whether it was ethical for any high court judge to be a businessman.

Justice I. Mahanty maintained a stony silence but on his behalf, the management of his hotel, The Triple C, issued a denial in The Indian Express on the same day as our press release. The Triple C Hotel's press statement contradicts the signed affidavit of Justice I. Mahanty himself, and it actually makes this high court judge's actions look totally mysterious!

MYSTERY #1. The Indian Express story says, "A spokesperson of Latest Generation Entertainment Pvt Limited (LGPL), which entered into a 15-year pact with Justice Indrajit Mohanty, clarified that lease/rent agreement for “Triple C” was signed in August, 2007. Chartered Accountant of LGPL R Sharma said possession of the property was handed over to the company in 2009 and it has been running the hotel ever since. LGPL has been paying lease rental for the premises after accounting for the income tax." And later on, it says, "Besides, the accusations that working capital had been availed for running hotel were found to be untrue as neither LGPL nor Justice Mohanty had taken any. Instead, a term loan was secured in 2007 for construction of the building. Application for an additional term loan was made in 2009 which was approved later in the year by State Bank of India."

But this begs the question: Why is Justice Indrajit Mahanty servicing a working capital loan of Rs 2.5 cr from State Bank of India, which he took in his own name in February 2009? Read SBI's loan sanction letter issued on 16th Feb 2009 in the name of Justice Indrajit Mahanty himself (and not in the name of Latest Generation Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.) See below image:

Why is Justice Indrajit Mahanty servicing a working capital loan of Rs 2.5 cr from State Bank of India, which he took in his own name in February 2009? Read SBI's loan sanction letter issued on 16th Feb 2009 in the name of Justice Indrajit Mahanty himself (and not in the name of Latest Generation Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.)

Also, why is Justice I. Mahanty (and not the hotel management company) withdrawing and repaying lakhs of rupees every month? Read the bank statements showing drawals and repayments as recent as May 2015. See below image:

If not from The Triple C Hotel, from what source of income does Justice Indrajit Mahanty pay amounts like Rs 2 lakh every month? And if not for working capital of the hotel, for what purpose does Justice I. Mahanty withdraw lakhs of rupees every month? Will his lordship kindly clarify this?

If not from The Triple C Hotel, from what source of income does Justice Indrajit Mahanty pay amounts like Rs 2 lakh every month? And if not for working capital of the hotel, for what purpose does Justice I. Mahanty withdraw lakhs of rupees every month? Will his lordship kindly clarify this?

MYSTERY #2: The Indian Express story says: "Contrary to the allegations that Justice Mohanty got record of rights of the land in 2006, available documents revealed that the land on which the hotel is located was purchased on October 16, 1981 by Barrister Ranjit Mohanty for his son, Justice Mohanty."

In that case, did Justice Indrajit Mahanty tell a lie in his affidavit? Why did he state, "That I have obtained a plot of land by way of Court Decree from the Court of the Subordinate Judge, first Court, Cuttack, in Title Suit no. 297 of 1981" Why didn't he mention anything about purchase of land by his father Barrister Ranjit Mahanty? See below image:

Did Justice Indrajit Mahanty tell a lie in his affidavit? Why did he state, "That I have obtained a plot of land by way of Court Decree from the Court of the Subordinate Judge, first Court, Cuttack, in Title Suit no. 297 of 1981" Why didn't he mention anything about purchase of land by his father Barrister Ranjit Mahanty?

The Indian Express story concludes by saying: "Sharma said the attacks on the hotel are not only baseless but also motivated and have adversely affected its functioning." 

Mr Sharma, do you really imagine that any of this is about the hotel? Oh come on, get real! It's not about The Triple C Hotel, and no, it's not about one over-privileged person named Indrajit Mahanty either. This is about the judiciary and its functioning, and the fundamental right of 1.3 billion citizens of India to be served by judges who are genuinely impartial and unbiased.

ISSUED IN PUBLIC INTEREST BY
Krishnaraj Rao
9821588114
krish.kkphoto@gmail.com