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Why CJI Dipak Misra is being accused of derailing probe into medical bribery scam

Anurag Dey | Updated on: 16 January 2018, 22:16 IST
(Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times)

The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) has accused Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra of derailing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s effort to nab a Allahabad High Court judge involved in the medical college bribery scam. CJAR claimed there are enough grounds for initiating an in-house probe against Misra for serious misconduct, including forgery.

In a complaint to five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court after the CJI, the CJAR alleged that the CJI “has apparently committed several acts of serious misconduct which should be inquired into by a committee of three/five judges of the apex court” under the in-house procedure.

 The five judges include Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, KurienJoseph and Madan B Lokur, the four “rebel” judges who have publicly accused the CJI of “assigning cases with far reaching consequences for the nation to the benches ‘of their preference’ without any rational basis”.

The complaint is accompanied by transcripts of conversations recorded by the CBI as part of its probe into the medical college scam.  The conversations purportedly involving– retired Odisha high Court Judge IM Qudussi, middleman Vishwanath Agarwala and BP Yadav of the Prasad Education Trust—reveal the conspiracy to bribe and influence the highest level of judiciary to favour the Lucknow based trust.

Revealing the contents of the complaint, CJAR convener Prashant Bhushan questioned CJI Misra’s intent in denying the CBI to register a FIR against Justice Narayan Shukla of the Allahabad High Court.

“The investigations reveal that the HC judge had received Rs 1 crore for giving a favourable order. But when that ordered was nullified by the SC, the amount so paid was asked to be refunded.

“The CBI wanted to arrest to judge red handed when he was to return the money and went to the CJI seeking permission to register a FIR against the judge. But the CJI denied such a permission denying the CBI the opportunity to catch the judge red-handed,” claimed Bhushan.

Bhushan also questioned the CJI’s motive behind handling two petitions- one filed by Kamini Jaiswal and another by the CJAR- seeking an independent probe into the allegations of bribing the highest judiciary.

“We had approached the SC contending that when there is such serious evidence with the CBI about a conspiracy to bribe the CJI, then there is a serious danger of the government using the CBI investigation to blackmail the CJI. That’s why an independent court monitored SIT probe was imperative.

“Unfortunately, the CJI who ought not to have dealt with the case either on the judicial or administrative side, not only proceeded to deal with case but even changed the bench of five senior judges to three junior judges which subsequently dismissed the case.

“We are not saying that the CJI is involved in the conspiracy, but then the conversations provide enough evidence to prove the conspiracy to bribe his bench that was dealing with the case,” he said.

Hearing the petition filed by Jaiswal, Justice Chelameswar in November had ordered that a five-judge bench of senior most judges in the apex court be set up to consider her plea for independent probe into case.

But subsequently, the CJI constituted an extraordinary Constitution Bench of five judges to annul the order passed by a Justice Chelameswar headed bench citing the authority of the Chief Justice to constitute benches.

The CJI assigned bench then dismissed Jaiswal petition observing that the allegations of bribery in the judiciary “were a deliberate attempt to scandalise this great institution”. The same bench later also dismissed the CJAR petition and imposed a cost of RS. 25 lakh on the petitioner.  

 The CJAR complaint levels several charges of misconduct against the CJI.

  • The facts and circumstances relating to the Prasad Trust case show, prima facie evidence suggesting that the CJI Dipak Misra may have been involved in the conspiracy of paying illegal gratification in the case, which at least warrants a thorough investigation.
  • That the CJI dealt on the administrative as well as judicial side, with a writ petition which sought an investigation into a matter in which he too was likely to fall within the scope of investigation since he had presided over every bench which had dealt with this case and passed orders in the case of Prasad Education Trust, and thus violated the first principle of the Code of Conduct for judges.
  • That the CJI appears to have antedated an administrative order dated 6 November 2017 which is a serious act of forgery/fabrication.
  • That the CJI, while he was an advocate (in Odisha) acquired land by giving a fraudulent affidavit,” reads the complaint signed by CJAR convener Prashant Bhushan.

 Besides a probe against the CJI, the CJAR also put forth certain demands:

  • The in-house complaint mechanism is silent on the procedure for complaints against the CJI. Senior judges of the SC must evolve a mechanism for complaints against the CJI
  • A matter of great concern is that in the matter relating to Writ petition 442 (Prasad Trust case) which is part of alleged conspiracy mentioned in the CBI FIR, the orders of the Supreme Court have been removed from the website of the Supreme Court.Why have orders of this specific case been removed ?
  • To prevent matters being selectively sent to particular handpicked benches, there is an urgent need for norms and rules which lay down clear guidelines for allocation of benches, which are fair, rational and transparent.
  • The campaign is concerned about transparency in functioning of the Supreme Court – The Memorandum of Procedure for Appointment of Judges needs to be put in the public domain.
  • The RTI Act must apply in letter and spirit to the Supreme Court which has been resisting transparency under the RTI Act.
First published: 16 January 2018, 22:16 IST