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Judges bribery case: SC reserves order on maintainability of plea

| | New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its order on the maintainability of a petition in which the

issue of alleged bribing of judges has been raised. A three-judge Bench headed by Justice RK Agrawal said it is likely to pass an order in the matter on Tuesday.

During the hearing, the Bench questioned advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Kamini Jaiswal, whether filing of two identically-worded petitions was not a matter of propriety and would it not tantamount to forum shopping if it is sought to be listed before a particular Bench.

Veteran lawyer and Prashant Bhushan’s father Shanti Bhushan vociferously argued that the three-judge Bench should not hear this petition as one of the judges — Justice AM Khanwilkar — was part of the Friday’s Bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which rejected the similar petition.

“With great respect, I say that the order passed by CJI’s Bench is illegal,” Shanti Bhushan said, reading out the portion of CBI’s FIR narrating the money collected to influence the judges in Supreme Court.

“One of the three Judges hearing the case dealt with the matter, so he can’t hear the case,” Shanti Bhushan said. The veteran lawyer’s remarks invited strong reaction from the Bench.

“Do baseless accusations against the Chief Justice of India not amount to contempt? Why did Bhushan do forum hopping? How can a judicial order be given to probe judges when other agencies are looking into the case? Why can’t you listen to the AG,” said Justice Agarwal responding to the allegations by Bhushans.

Earlier, Attorney General KK Venugopal said Prashant Bhsuan should withdraw the plea as it has cost the reputation of the institution. “The order is reserved on the maintainability of the plea,” the Bench then said.

Addl Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told court that the CBI is capable of independent probe into the scam and all attempts to scandalise judiciary should be rejected. Prashant Bhushan retorted that the CBI is mere tool in the Government’s hand and judicial independence will be affected if they continue with the probe.

A Bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer had ordered on November 9 that the plea should be heard by a five-judge Constitution Bench of the senior-most judges of the apex court.

However, on November 10, in an unprecedented hearing, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra had ruled that “no judge can take up a matter on his own, unless allocated by the chief justice of India, as he is the master of the roster”.

It had overruled the order of Justice Chelameswar directing a Constitution Bench hearing, saying “if any such order has been passed by any Bench that cannot hold the field as that will be running counter to the order passed by the Constitution Bench.”

The authority of the CJI was allegedly undermined by a Bench headed by Justice Chelameswar in the showdown over the issue of supremacy of constituting a Bench.

Justice Chelameswar, who is the senior-most judge after the CJI, had termed as “disturbing” the allegations levelled in a CBI FIR and ordered setting up a bench of five top judges of the court as a petition by Jaiswal had alleged there were allegations against Justice Misra.

The CBI, in its FIR, lodged on September 19, has named several persons, including former Orissa High Court judge Ishrat Masroor Quddusi, as accused in an alleged corruption case. Quddusi, who had also served as a judge in the Chhattisgarh High Court, was arrested along with Lucknow-based Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences’ chairman BP Yadav, his son Palash Yadav and three others, for allegedly trying to settle a matter relating to a medical college barred from admitting new students. The judge had later been released on bail.



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