Fact Check: Did Justice D. Y. Chandrachud Hear A Case Related To His Son's Client?
A complaint was filed recently against Justice D. Y. Chandrachud before the President of India alleging, inter alia, that he passed an order in a case favourable to the client of his son Advocate Abhinav Chandrachud.
After the complaint was widely circulated on social media, the Bar Council of India on Saturday came out in support of Justice Chandrachud, albeit with a strange argument that since Justice Chandrachud passed a judicial order in the matter instead of calling the Judge of the Bombay High Court, it shows that Justice Chandrachud had no interest in the case.
The Bar Council also said that the parties to the said proceedings before the Supreme Court were different from the parties before the Bombay High Court whom Abhinav Chandrachud represented and that the order of the Supreme Court was merely for expeditious disposal of the case and not on merits of the case.
The BCI added that there is nothing to disclose that Justice Chandrachud was aware that his son had appeared in any matter before the High Court.
The facts of the case based on the information available in the public domain are as follows:-
The case referred to in the complaint, SLP(Crl) No. 931 of 2021 which was heard by the Bench headed by Justice Chandrachud, was filed against an order of the Bombay High Court of March 19, 2021, in CRLWP No.1443 of 2021.
The case before the High Court was filed by one Vinay Vivek Arhana, an accused in an FIR, seeking an interim/ad-interim relief of no coercive action against him based on the FIR. One Anita Kishore Chavan was arrayed as the 2nd Respondent in the case, who could be the victim/complainant in the case.
A Division Bench of the Bombay High Court, by the order challenged before the Supreme Court, directed that no coercive action be taken against the petitioner in that case, while posting the case for final disposal on April 7, 2021. In its order, the Bombay High Court noted that in some writ petitions arising out of FIR No.806 of 2019 of Pimpri-Chinchwad Police Station and other FIRs that were alleged to be for the same offence as in the former FIR, the High Court had granted similar relief to other accused.
The SLP before the Apex Court was filed by the 2nd Respondent before the High Court i.e. Anita Kishore Chavan.
It is recorded in the order of the Apex Court that Senior Advocate Rebecca John argued that the writ petition before the High Court has not been taken up for final disposal on or after 7 April 2021, as stated in the Order of the High Court. She also contended that the case was not heard even though the State had filed an application for vacating the order of stay on coercive action.
The Bench headed by Justice Chandrachud, on November 29, 2021, without issuing notice to the respondents, directed the High Court to either dispose of the writ petition or the petition to vacate the stay, within 3 months.
It is alleged in the complaint against Justice Chandrachud that "in relation to the FIR No. 806/2019, Adv. Abhinav Chandrachud appeared on behalf of Sheetal Tejwani in Writ Petition No. 3093/2021". It is alleged that FIR No. 806/2019 relates to bank fraud of around 300 Crores and that one Sagar Suryawanshi, his wife Sheetal Tejwani and Anita Chavan hatched the conspiracy to "extort money from the people concerned with the case" and that Sagar Suryavanshi made Anita Chavan a complainant in one case and was opposing the grant of relief to the accused.
It is said in the complaint that Abhinav Chandrachud is representing Sagar Suryawanshi and Sheetal Tejwani in many cases and that he represented Sheetal Tejwani in CRLWP No. 3093/2021.
Abhinav Chandrachud did appear for the petitioner Sheetal Tejwani in the said writ petition and on September 2, 2021, argued that Sheetal was being prosecuted on the same set of facts, which form the subject matter of the FIR No.806/2019, with respect to which, interim relief has been granted by the Court to the accused therein. The Court accepted that submission.
He placed reliance on an order of August 13, 2021, passed by a Division Bench in two writ petitions with an identical challenge.
The said order had been passed relying upon the March 19, 2021 order passed in CRLWP No.1443 of 2021 (the order challenged before the Apex Court).
The High Court granted similar relief of protection from coercive action to Abhinav Chandrachud's client on September 2, 2021, whereas, the SLP before the Apex Court against the March 19 order was filed only on November 17, 2021.
It is alleged that though Justice Chandrachud directed consideration of the application for vacating the interim order, filed by the state, as urged by Senior Advocate Rebecca John, no such application had been filed by the state and the order was passed without issuing notice to the state's counsel.
It is true that the SLP was disposed of on its first posting, as can be seen from the website of the Apex Court, without issuing notice to the respondents, probably because of the nature of the order that was passed.
The website of the Bombay High Court does not mention that any such application was filed by the state in the case, though the website has a provision to show applications and documents filed in a case.
It is alleged that Justice Chandrachud was disqualified from hearing the case, but passed an order favourable to Abhinav Chandrachud's client.
The complainant does not have a case that either of the two private parties before the Apex Court was represented by Abhinav Chandrachud before the High Court. It appears to be his case that the petitioner before the Apex Court, Anita Kishore Chavan is an associate of Abhinav's client, Sheetal Tejwani and both wanted to extort money from other accused and did not want those accused to get relief from the court.
However, the complainant's allegations don't add up since Abhinav's client is accused of the same/similar offence as the other accused. It is not clear why Abhinav's client would want other accused not to get relief from the Courts when she is accused of the same/similar offence.
The petitioner before the Apex Court was seeking vacation of the interim order that was relied upon to grant relief to Abhinav's client as the FIR in both cases were in relation to the same or similar transactions (connected to FIR No.806 of 2019).
The petitioner before Justice Chandrachud's Bench was aggrieved by an interim order that was relied upon by the Bombay High Court to grant interim relief to Abhinav Chandrachud's client. If the order was upheld or struck down, it would have had a bearing on Abhinav's client's case. Instead, the Apex Court ordered speedy disposal of the case before the High Court. The Bench fixed a time frame of three months for the same. The length of the time frame can also be looked at both ways.
It is not clear whether the final relief sought by the petitioner before Justice Chandrachud was to vacate the interim order, which would have adversely affected Abhinav's client. If that was a relief sought from the Court, then the order of speedy disposal was comparatively beneficial for Abhinav's client.
But, then comes the question of whether Justice Chandrachud was aware of the fact that Abhinav had appeared in a connected case before the High Court. It is not known whether all orders passed by the High Court relying upon the impugned order were produced before the Apex Court to highlight the necessity to vacate it. The BCI argues that the complainant has not shown that Justice Chandrachud was aware that his son had appeared in the matter before the High Court.
It is clear that Justice Chandrachud ought to have avoided hearing the case, if he was aware of the connection between the case and his son's client.
[The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. Verdictum does not assume any responsibility or liability for the contents of the article.]