Judges bribery case: SC reserves order on maintainability of plea

When Prashant Bhushan took on CJI stormed out of Supreme Court

Reserving the order to be pronounced on Tuesday, the bench of Justice R.K. Agrawal, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar on Monday described the conduct of the petition lawyer Kamini Jaiswal as "reckless and short on propriety which has damaged the institution". However, Justice Mishra was quick to clarify that no sitting judge of the top court was specifically named in CBI's FIR.

Petitioner and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who had sought an SIT Investigation in the medical college bribery scam, on Friday accused CJI Dipak Misra of presiding over a "hand-picked bench to override yesterday's order" by another top court bench. "Everybody is doubting the system itself", said Justice Mishra.

Justice Mishra told the counsel that it was possible that somebody could have used the names of judges to tell their clients that they would get a favourable order.

Attorney General KK Venugopal observed that the court was facing a crisis that was brought about by the petitions. But when the CJI was sitting in a Constitution bench, urgent cases could be mentioned before the judge next in seniority, which at present is justice J Chelameswar. "Article 142 is binding on the Chief Justice, according to which a Supreme Court judge can pass any order to do complete justice". This petition has damaged the image of the most important judge, the CJI, of this court.

Hailing Justice Jasti Chelameswar's order - which was struck down by a five-judge bench led by the CJI on Friday - Shanti Bhushan argued the point that once a bench had deliberated on an issue and given its order, it was wrong for another bench to interfere with it.

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But the Supreme Court's rules clearly establish that the Chief Justice as "master of the roster" must decide which judges are assigned to different cases. Quddusi, who was Orissa High Court judge between 2004 and 2010, is alleged to have helped the private medical college admit students to MBBS courses despite the Supreme Court barring the institutes from doing so.

The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR), a non-governmental organisation represented by Bhushan, had last week moved a petition seeking an independent court-monitored probe into the alleged scam.

Bhushan contended that no direct allegations were made against the chief justice.

The November 10 order states that "after perusal of the aforesaid order (Justice Sikri's order), it was thought appropriate by the Chief Justice of India to constitute a Constitution Bench and, accordingly, the matter has been placed before us". Instead, Chief Justice Dipak Misra hurriedly set up a separate five-judge bench on November 10, which recalled Justice Chelameswar's order and sent the case to a three-judge bench he picked.

On November 9, another petition was filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal which was mentioned for an early hearing by senior counsel Dushyant Dave.

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