SC to hear petition on how to deal with corruption allegations against judges
On Monday, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court of India will decide how to deal with serious allegations of corruption against it own judges. This is significant, as the allegations of fixing pertain to a bench of judges headed by the Chief Justice of India. Despite demands in the petition, for now, there is ambiguity if the CJI would recuse himself from the Constitution Bench on Monday.
The matter was referred to the larger bench by Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the second senior most judge in the country and Justice Abdul Nazeer, hearing an urgent petition by Advocate Kamini Jaiswal which sought an independent and fair probe into the matter which hit the headlines following the arrest of a former High Court Judge by the CBI in what is called the Medical College Scam.
The two-judge bench, meanwhile, passed an interim order asking the registry to obtain all the documents pertaining to investigations into the matter by the CBI and submit them in a sealed cover.
This is the second time a petition on the happenings in the corruption case found its way to the Supreme Court for urgent hearing. On Wednesday what happened in the court was interesting.
The petition by Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) seeking an independent court monitored investigation in this case, by a SIT headed by a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was mentioned for urgent listing before court number 2. Justice Chelameswar’s bench ordered it to be listed before him on 10 November. However, CJAR says that “during lunch the petitioners counsel was informed by the Registry that in the light of an order by the Chief Justice this case is assigned to another bench and therefore would be coming up on Friday not before Court 2 but before the other bench.”
The happenings in the court on Thursday, too, were intriguing. After senior Advocate Dushyant Dave mentioned the case in Court Number 2 this morning, Justice Chelameswar calling it a serious issue referred it for hearing at 12:45 PM.
In the interim, the CJI, who was heading the Constitution Bench hearing the Delhi government case, rose up midway.
Soon after, as the matter came up from hearing before the bench in Court Number 2, strangely, a photocopy from the officer of the registry containing proceedings issued by the CJI was placed before the bench.
“But at the same time, we are also duty bound to place the developments that when the hearing of the matter was in progress, the Officer of the Registry placed a photocopy of the proceedings purportedly issued by the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India, a copy of which is annexed to this Order,” Justice Chelameswar writes in the order.
Both the petitioners, Dave and CJAR had sought that CJI Misra be kept away from the hearing the matter.
“The FIR lodged by the CBI is naming a former judge of a High Court as an accused, who has apparently been negotiating through a middle man to get the favourable order in a petition pending in this Hon’ble Court. The said petition was being heard by a bench headed by the present Chief Justice of India. It therefore casts an aspersion on the judiciary at the highest level,” the petition by CJAR says.
“Hence, it becomes essential that this case is investigated under the supervision of a Special Investigation Team headed by a retired Chief Justice of this Hon’ble Court and that the investigation is not left to an agency fully controlled by the government i.e. the CBI which has lodged the FIR and currently undertaking the investigation,” the PIL demands.
Both the petitoners also doubt the intentions of the CBI. Dave, arguing in the court asked if the CBI had filed a false case to tarnish the image of the judiciary. CJAR, in its petition says “As it appears from the FIR lodged by the CBI, an attempt was being made to unduly influence the outcome of the petition which was pending before this Hon’ble Court.” CJAR’s petition claims that the government could use the investigations to undermine the independence of the judiciary.
Interestingly, JS Khehar the former CJI, too found him in the middle of a controversy over the contents of the suicide note of former Arunachal Chief Minister Kalikho Pul. Amidst allegations that the court had failed adequately investigate the matter.
Meanwhile, the petitions refer to an FIR regietered by the CBI on September 19 where it alleged a criminal conspiracy by several people including one retired Judge of the Orissa High Court, Justice IM Quddusi and officers of the Prasad Education Trust, a trust running a medical college, to bribe and influence judges of the High Court and Supreme Court and secure favourable orders for the recognition of a medical college run by the trust, whose recognition had been denied by the MCI. The FIR talks of a middle man named Biswanath Agarwala from Orissa, who was engaged with the purpose of influencing the Judges.
Post FIR raids, more than Rs 2 crore cash was recovered and the CBI made arrests including that of Justice Qudussi.
However, the CJAR petition says that “these persons secured bail and no effort was made by the CBI to challenge their bail and nothing is known about the progress of the investigation.”