Medical college judges' bribery case: Kamini Jaiswal's petition dismissed as contempt
While refraining to initiate contempt proceedings for “derogatory allegations made against Chief Justice Dipak Misra”, a Supreme Court Bench dismissed a petition seeking a SIT probe into allegations of corruption at the highest levels of the judiciary.
The petition, filed by Kamini Jaiswal, plead for a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a retired Chief Justice of India to probe an alleged racket to bribe and influence SC/High Court judges for securing a favourable order for a medical college that has been denied recognition by the Medical Council of India.
The CBI is probing the matter and has indicted retired Orissa High Court judge IM Quddusi among others for conspiring to bribe and influence the highest level of judiciary to favour the Lucknow based Prasad Education Trust which runs the medical college.
Jaiswal’s petition was subsequent to a similar petition by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR). Both petitions said an independent probe was imperative contending any investigation government controlled CBI could compromise the independence of the judiciary.
Her petition had led to a rather unusual high voltage drama in the apex court, leading to speculations of differences between Chief Justice Dipak Mishra and Justice J Chelameswar.
A Justice Chelameshwar bench on Thursday had referred the petition to a Constitution bench of five senior-most judges of the apex court to hear it on Monday.
But the CJI subsequently constituted an extraordinary Constitution Bench of five judges. The bench upheld the authority of the Chief Justice to constitute benches and annulled the order of two-judge Bench headed by Justice Chelameswar.
Prashant Bhushan, the counsel in both the petitions, citing conflict of interest, contended that CJI Misra should keep away from the proceedings. He had also claimed that the CJI’s name featured in the CBI first information report (FIR).
Subsequently, a bench of Justices RK Agarwal, AK Mishra and AM Khanwilkar was constituted to decide if filing of two petitions with identical facts amounted to forum hunting and if the allegations made against the CJI amounted to contempt.
The three-judge bench dismissed Kamini Jaiswal's petition, saying it wrongly presupposes that investigation involves the higher judiciary.
“There cannot be registration of any FIR against a High Court Judge or Chief Justice of the High Court or the Supreme Court Judge without the consultation of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India and, in case there is an allegation against CJI, the decision has to be taken by the President, in accordance with the procedure prescribed in the said decision," reads the verdict.
“Thus, the instant petitions, as filed, are a misconceived venture inasmuch, as the petition wrongly presupposes that investigation involves higher judiciary, i.e. this Court’s functionaries are under the scanner in the aforesaid case,” it continues.
"We do not find reflection of any name of the Judge of this Court in the FIR. There is no question of registering any FIR against any sitting Judge of the High Court or of this Court as it is not permissible,” it says, referring to an earlier apex court verdict concerning the power to prosecute judges.
The bench also slammed the petitioner’s call for recusal.
“...Such unscrupulous allegations and insinuations cannot be allowed to be hurled by oral prayer made on behalf of the petitioner for recusal. This is simply deprecated and we find that it is another attempt to bring the system in disrepute, casting of unwarranted aspersions tantamounts to seriously jeopardising the independence of the judiciary," it says.
The court’s observations in the instant case are also likely to impact the CJAR petition which is to be listed later in the month.
“We find that filing of such petitions and the zest, with which it is pursued, has brought the entire system in the last few days to unrest. An effort was made to create ripples in this Court; serious and unwanted shadow of doubt has been created for no good reason whatsoever by way of filing the petition which was wholly scandalous and ought not to have been filed in such a method and manner. It is against the settled proposition of law," the 34-page judgement says.
“Ultimately after arguing at length, at the end, it was submitted by the petitioner and her counsel that they were not aiming at any individual. If that was not so, unfounded allegations ought not to have been made against the system and that too against the Hon’ble Chief Justice of this country. The submissions so raised, and averments so made, in this petition, and the entire scenario created by filing of two successive petitions, are really disturbing a lot. The entire judicial system has been unnecessarily brought into disrepute for no good cause whatsoever," it says.
Bhushan later took to Twitter to express his dismay over the verdict.
CBI registers FIR saying that a medical college has conspired & collected money to pay bribes to SC for favourable Judgment. SC bench says there's no allegation in FIR against judges & PIL filed for SIT monitored by top judges of Court is frivolous & amounts to contempt of court!— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) November 14, 2017