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1 October, 2016, Cuttack: Before doing business with a judge's brother, think twice. In the year 2000, Ravenshaw, a 150-year-old college, signed an MOU to start professional courses in "public private partnership" with Star Computer Institute Pvt. Ltd., belonging to BJP politician Biswajit Mohanty, son of Barrister Ranjit Mohanty, and brother of Orissa High Court's second-seniormost judge Indrajit Mahanty. In 2011, this MOU was renewed for a further three years. Upon the MOU's expiry in 2014, Ravenshaw (which was now no longer just a college but a full-fledged university) decided not to renew their MOU with Star. In the process, Ravenshaw incurred the enmity of Biswajit Mohanty's elder brother, who proceeded to give them a taste of pure hell!
Ravenshaw is a grand old institution with 8000 students and 90 faculty members, and a sanctioned strength of 153 faculty. It became a University through an enactment in 2005, and was bound by UGC's guidelines, which said, "No university whether central/state/private can offer its programme through franchise agreement even for the purpose of conducting course through distant mode." But, given the money and prestige involved, businessman Biswajit Mohanty was in no mood to leave the campus peacefully. So the matter went into arbitration, and also, in November 2014, an FIR was registered against Biswajit Mohanty because he allegedly "entered the University campus with five other persons and misbehaved with staff and students of the ITM department using the most filthy language". The police complaint said that Biswajit Mohanty threatened them, saying, "If you don't refrain yourself coming to the ITM department, I would assault you by entering into your home".
And then, in March 2015, came the judgment of the district judge to the arbitration petition filed by Star Computer Institute while the arbitrator's final order was still awaited. The judgment upheld Ravenshaw's right to terminate the MOU. The FIR and this adverse judgment against Biswajit Mohanty provoked his big brother Indrajit Mahanty, who took all the high court cases concerning Ravenshaw into his hand.
Until then, Ravenshaw's cases were heard by single benches such as Justice S.C. ParijaJustice Biswanath Rath, and Justice Sanju Panda, and many orders and judgments were favourable to Ravenshaw. Multiple writ petitions filed in 2015 against a recruitment advertisement issued by Ravenshaw, were initially posted in the single judge benches of Justice B.N Rath, Justice Dr. B.R Sarangi and Justice Dr. A K Rath, and later, all recruitment matters were brought to the court of Justice B.R Sarangi, where they remained stayed for 7 months. Then, on 9th December 2015, a division bench of Justice D P Choudhury and Indrajit Mahanty overturned the earlier judgmentsfrom 2014, quashed the recruitment, and slammed Ravenshaw on almost every count. This bench -- dominated by Justice I Mahanty who is almost a decade senior to Justice Choudhury (currently the junior most judge in Orissa High Court) – went on to initiate two suomotu civil contempt proceedings. Between March and May 2016, Justice Indrajit Mahanty passed eight orders on various cases that showed Ravenshaw who was boss!
The orders and judgments mentioned in this article (including FIR and District Judge's arbitration order) can be downloaded fromhttp://tinyurl.com/Ravenshaw-cases
Questions arise about our judiciary's integrity:
  1. Was Orissa's Chief Justice Vineet Saran ignorant about Justice Indrajit Mahanty's special interest in Ravenshaw University? Or did he consciously allow Justice I Mahanty to use the court system to settle scores?
  2. Unknown to India's common man, is our judiciary generally functioning in this way? Do many of our judges have an axe to grind? Is it normal for some judges to say to each other, "I want to teach that party a lesson, so transfer that case to me"? Do they quietly manipulate and attract some cases to their own court?
The main issue is not whether Justice Indrajit Mahanty is a good guy or a bad guy. It's also not whether his judgments and orders in Ravenshaw matters are judicially correct or otherwise. The key issue is, why did Orissa High Court allow Justice Indrajit Mahanty to give judgments on Ravenshaw, where he had a vested interest?
What happened afterwards: After activist Chittaranjan Mohanty, on behalf of the 8000 students of Ravenshaw, petitioned the Chief Justice of India and Chief Justice of Orissa High Court in July 2016, all Ravenshaw-related matters were taken away from Justice Mahanty.The division bench matters were assigned to a bench headed by Justice S.C. Parija and the single bench matters were assigned to Justice Debabrata Dash who hears all service matters. A PIL is about to be filed for review of the judgment and orders of the Division Bench headed by Justice I.Mahanty in Ravenshaw recruitment matter.
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Judge Indrajit Mahanty's incestuous ties with Trade Unionist Biswajit Mohanty

 

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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 Expresson 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?

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.

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7 April 2015, India: OK, here’s a question: Can you and I make a profit of about Rs 90 lakh by selling a plot of government land before it is transferred to us? Can we sell it to a known crook and swindler at the height of his career? Answer: If we are common people, then no. But if we are high court judges, then yes, we can not only do it, but we can also be elevated to the position of a Chief Justice! Come, let us learn from Justice Laxmi Kanta Mohapatra, Chief Justice Of Manipur, how it is done.

Like all our High Court and Supreme Court judges, Justice Laxmi Kanta Mohapatra (http://hcmimphal.nic.in/judges.html) is immune to the laws of the land. When he was a High Court judge in Odisha, Mr. Mohapatra accepted a bribe of about Rs 90 lakh through a shady land deal with a chit-fund fraudster named Pradeep Sethy (http://tinyurl.com/pradeep-sethy), whose Artha Tatwa Chit Fund scam in Odisha was estimated by Supreme Court to be Rs 4,600 crore – roughly twice the size of the infamous Saradha scam in West Bengal. (Others put it at Rs 20,000 crore.) In this unusual sale of land, the Cuttack Development Authority actively cooperated with Justice Mohapatra. In connection with this same land transaction, Advocate General Ashok Mohanty was arrested last year (http://tinyurl.com/AG-ashok-Mohanty), but Laxmi Kanta Mohapatra -- then the Acting Chief Justice of Manipur High Court -- went on to be elevated to Chief Justice on 10th July 2014, well after the scandal became well-known in the public domain and the media! Isey kehte hain Independence Of Judiciary!

One however wonders about the dynamics of how this particular elevation happened. Did somebody bribe the members of the Supreme Court collegium on behalf of the hon’ble Mr Mohapatra? Or did one of the collegium judges highly recommend Mr Mohapatra as, relatively speaking, the cleanest judge available for the position of CJ of Manipur? Did this brother judge convincingly argue that a little bit of shady dealings, stamp duty evasion and money-laundering should be considered acceptable among the brotherhood of judges? Or was it the collegium’s considered decision that, since Justice Mohapatra was only exploiting well-known legal loopholes in Odisha's Stamp Act and other laws, it was legally acceptable?

(For the record, the government of Odisha was in the habit of making such discretionary land allocations to high court judges and others. This facility was widely known and exploited for years by VVIPs. (Read http://tinyurl.com/Odisha-land-allotments. After this scandal, in December 2014, the government seems to have decided to mend its ways (http://tinyurl.com/Odisha-cancels-allotments). RTI Activist Jayanta Kumar Das, in his Letter Petition (http://tinyurl.com/Jayanta-Das-Letter2CJI) to Chief Justice of India on 18th March 2015, presented a blow-by-blow account of Justice Laxmi Kanta Mohapatra's wrongdoings, with supporting evidence, and is awaiting some action. Tall hopes? Maybe. Wait and watch.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  1. On 11.10.2006, in his capacity of a judge of Odisha High Court, Laxmikanta Mohapatra applied for a government plot in Markata Nagar to Cuttack Development Authority (CDA). Within seven months, CDA allotted a 4000 square foot plot in Sector-11 in Bidanasi project area, Cuttack) and instructed him to pay Rs 9.8 lakhs. Having an ancestral property in Cuttack district (Stoney Road, Post- Candinichowk, P.S- Lal Bag, Dist – Cuttack), Mr Mohapatra was actually not eligible to get a government plot from CDA. So, his letter was evasively worded, stating that neither he nor his family owned land at Markata Nagar. After taking possession in July 2007, lthough the allotted plot was not yet transferred in his name, Laxmikanta Mohapatra proceeded to build a double storied building on the allotted plot. Read documents: http://tinyurl.com/Judge-gets-land
  2. within four years of the allotment of government land to him, Justice Laxmikanta Mohapatra transferred the possession of this plot for a consideration of Rs one crore. The land was "sold" by means of a simple affidavit on ten-rupees stamp paper to Pradeep Kumar Sethy, the chit-fund baron. The mode of payment was not mentioned (Cheque? Cash? Any other means? Who knows?) The affidavit said, “I have taken over the possession of the plot on 23.7.2007 and lease deed has not been executed in my fabour (sic!) till date. The plot is double storied building is existing on the plot”. As Justice Laxmi Kanta Mohapatra was not the owner of this plot, he had no right to execute and register a sale deed or to transfers this plot in favour of any party. Indeed, no law in India or in Odisha empowers anybody to transfer or sell a property to any party by means of a mere affidavit… but that is precisely what this learned judge did! Read http://tinyurl.com/Sethy-buys-from-Judge

By means of this unlawful transaction, Justice Laxmikanta Mohapatra enabled chit fund operator Pradeep Kumar Sethy to do him an undue favour of about Rs 90 lakh. Simultaneously, the honourable judge broke the law to avoid paying at least Rs 5 lakhs stamp duty and registration. And last but not least, this person who is now Chief Justice of Manipur committed offences of money-laundering by accepting and creating black money from the chit fund operator – possibly in order to provide him some undue favours.

Cuttack Development Authority aided and abetted this unlawful transaction. It transferred this plot in the name of Sri Pradeep Kumar Sethy vide its Letter No.8098/CDA/Dated 23.4.2011 based on Justice Laxmikanta Mohapatra’s affidavit and a request letter written by Pradeep Sethy.

  1. Meanwhile, lakhs of people in Odisha started raising their voice against Artha Tatwa Chit Fund Company, its Chief Managing Director Pradeep Sethy and other directors for the nonpayment of their matured fixed deposits in different branch offices of the company. Anticipating his arrest, Pradeep Sethy approached the Advocate General of Orissa High Court Sri Ashok Mohanty for an undue favour, and a deal was struck.

Barely one and a half years after the land was transferred in his name, Pradeep Sethy made another affidavit dated 03.10.2012 transferring the land plot for a consideration of Rs 1,00,01,000/- (Rupees One Crore and One Thousand) only. Again, the mode of payment was not mentioned (Cheque? Cash?). This affidavit suggests, as CBI mentions in its chargesheet, that Advocate General Ashok entered into this transaction as a consideration for giving undue favours in Orissa high Court. Read http://tinyurl.com/Sethy-sells-to-AG

  1. A case was registered against Pradeep Sethyand his staff by Balasore Town Police for cheating innocent investors (Balasore Town P.S. Case No. 352 of 2012 dated 06.10.2012, U/S 420/506/34 I.P.C etc). Pradeep Sethy applied for anticipatory bail before Odisha High Court, on 09.10.2012 (Annexure- 21). Thanks to Advocate General Ashok Mohanty, this anticipatory bail was allowed. Pradeep Sethy and all his associates were released on anticipatory bail without production of the case diary on 18.10.2012.
  2. Soon afterwards, Cuttack Development Authority took steps to ensure that the bribe paid to Ashok Mohanty reached him, i.e. the transfer of the land to Ashok Mohanty, who was possibly anxious that the land plot may be seized by the authorities, along with other assets belonging to Sethy. So, by a form-letter dated 8th February 2013, it summoned Sethy to appear in person on the same day between 2 and 4 pm with necessary documents for signature verification and verification of his identity. It is not know by what mode this letter was delivered, and so one may presume that an urgent hand-delivery was made, possibly by the Advocate General himself! Read http://tinyurl.com/CDA-writes-to-Sethy
  3. In its preliminary charge sheet in the Artha Tatwa Chit Fund Scam Case, CBI states that the consideration of Rs one crore to Justice Laxmi Kanta Mohapatra came out of misappropriated funds from the Artha Tatwa company accounts. It says, "As per records, accused P.K. Sethy had purchased said building from Justice L.K. Mohapatra for consideration of Rs. 1,00,00,000/- during April, 2011 out of the money flown from the accounts of AT Group and later, transferred the said plot to Asok Mohanty." You may read the relevant paragraphs of the CBI chargesheet here: http://tinyurl.com/CBI-chargesheet-Artha-Tatwa
  4. The CBI chargesheet says: "Investigation disclosed that accused Asok Mohanty was the Advocate General of Odisha during the period from June, 2009 to September, 2014. He had purchased a building located at plot No. 11-3B/1332, Category-B, measuring 4000 sqft in sector -11, Bidanashi, Cuttack from the accused Pradeep Kumar Sethy. As per records, accused P.K. Sethy had purchased said building from Justice L.K. Mohapatra for consideration of Rs. 1,00,00,000/- during April, 2011 out of the money flown from the accounts of AT Group and later, transferred the said plot to Asok Mohanty. Though the sale transaction was shown to be of Rs 1,01,00,000/- but in fact an amount of Rs. 70,00,000/- only has been paid by accused Asok Mohanty to accused P.K. Sethy. During the course of investigation two money receipts were seized from the official premises of accused Asok Mohanty indicating the payment of Rs. 1,01,00,000/- towards consideration. The said money receipts bear forged signatures of accused Pradeep Kumar Sethy. During the relevant period of time i.e. during October, 2012, when the above transaction took place, agitations were going on in Odisha against the accused Pradeep Kumar Sethy and against AT Group by the depositors which is evident by registration of the 1st FIR against the AT Group on 06.10.2013 following which the accused P.K.Sethy had moved an anticipatory bail petitions before the Hon'ble high Court on 09.10.2012 and during the relevant time the present accused AG entered into a criminal conspiracy with the said Pradeep Kumar Sethy and in furtherance thereof extended his hospitality towards the accused P.K.Sethy as a result of which the anticipatory bail was granted to the accused P.K.Sethy on 18.09.2012. During the course of investigation, two separate agreements for sale of the said plots were recovered/seized from the possession of accused Asok Mohanty. In the said two agreements, the consideration agreed upon was Rs One Crore and One Lakh which is contrary to the consideration mentioned in the affidavit dt. 03.10.2012 submitted to the Cuttack Development Authority for transfer of ownership of the said property. It may be mentioned here that in the said affidavit dt. 03.10.2012, the consideration amount is mentioned as Rs. One Crore and One Thousand. Thus, it is clear that the accused Asok Mohanty misappropriated the remaining amount of Rs. 31 lakhs that he was supposed to pay to the accused Pradeep Kumar Sethy."
  5. Significantly, CBI was able to investigate the role of Advocate General Asok Mohanty... but do they have the authority or the mandate to investigate the role played by Justice LK Mohapatra? No. And therefore, one is left wondering whether Justice Mohapatra's role was as innocuous as the CBI chargesheet makes it out to be!

Final outcome:

  • Lakhs of citizens of Odisha – swindled. Money not yet recovered
  • Chit fund swindler Pradeep Sethy – arrested & chargesheeted by CBI.
  • Advocate General Asok Mohanty – ditto… and he lost his job.
  • Odisha High Court Judge Laxmi Kanta Mohapatra – got to keep Rs 90 lakhs that came from the savings of chit fund investors… and he was elevated to the position of Chief Justice of Manipur after the scandal.

Will somebody please rap the Supreme Court collegium on the knuckles for this decision, and impeach this honourable Chief Justice of Manipur? If this is not done, one worries that before his scheduled retirement on 10th June 2016 upon attaining the age of 62, the SC collegium (or Judicial Appointments Commission) may elevate him to the exalted status of a Supreme Court Judge, or even, who knows? Chief Justice of India? You can never tell.