July 06 2020
Missing files: Madras HC orders CBI probe
19 July 2018

Disappeared from ex-judge’s house

This is a fit case for ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’. With about a hundred case bundles having mysteriously disappeared from a Madras High Court judge’s residence, the court has now ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe to get to the bottom of the matter.

The bundles went missing from the residence of former judge T. Mathivanan before he retired from service in May 2017.

Justice G. Jayachandran directed the central agency to investigate the issue and proceed against those found guilty. “This court is worried about the missing case records from the chartered High Court, which is also a court of record (a court whose proceedings are recorded and available as evidence of fact),” he said.

Wondering how case bundles sent to a judge’s residence did not return to the High Court Registry and remained untraced, Mr. Justice Jayachandran said: “It is alarming to note that case bundles have disappeared from the radar like missing vessels in the Bermuda Triangle.”

The issue created a furore, with a number of lawyers taking it up with Chief Justice Indira Banerjee. One of those complaints stated that Justice Mathivanan had allowed a petition on March 21, but a copy of the order was not delivered to the petitioner till the judge retired from service.

Subsequently, the High Court Registry informed the lawyer, G. Saravanan, that his entire case bundle was missing. However, curiously, the Information Centre on the court campus had issued him a printout of the case status information, wherein it was clearly mentioned that the case had been disposed of by Mr. Mathivanan on March 21.

The Chief Justice received similar complaints from many other lawyers who complained of bundles related to appeals, original petitions and revision cases going missing. All those cases were related to CBI investigations and all of them had been dealt with by Mr. Mathivanan during his tenure as a judge of the High Court.

Shocked over such complaints, Ms. Justice Banerjee ordered an in-house enquiry which revealed that about a hundred case bundles sent to the judge’s residence, before his retirement, for various purposes such as dictating and signing of the judicial orders, were not returned. The court officials were unable to trace them despite their best efforts.

Immediately, the Chief Justice issued a circular instructing the personal assistants to judges to keep a track of every case bundle and make sure that they reach the High Court Registry on time. She also ordered reconstruction of records in cases where the bundles were missing and to list them before the portfolio judges concerned.

Accordingly, two criminal appeals, six criminal original petitions and two criminal revision cases were listed before Mr. Justice Jayachandran under the head ‘Matters relating to reconstruction.’ The lawyers told the judge that case bundles were missing in several cases in which Mr. Mathivanan had either reserved orders or pronounced them in open court.

Surprised over such a submission, the judge called for details from the registry and learnt that about a hundred case bundles were missing. “Reconstruction of missing records may be a solution on the administrative side but the fact that a hundred case bundles have not returned from the residence of the retired judge cannot be ignored,” the judge said.



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