Judges bribery: SC rejects SIT probe
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the plea for a probe into the allegation of middlemen-judges’ nexus in the medical admission scam and snubbed advocate Prashant Bhushan for bringing disrepute to judiciary by making false and unsubstantiated allegations against Chief Justice of India (CJI).
The Bench of Justices RK Agarwal, Arun Mishra and AM Khanwilkar rejected the petition filed by Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) that demanded setting up a special investigation team (SIT) headed by a retired CJI to take over the probe from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The CBI FIR named former Orissa High Court judge Justice (Retd) IM Quddusi, a local hawala operator Biswanath Agrawal and the owners of the Prasad Education Trust among others for hatching a conspiracy to fix the case in favour of the medical college in the Supreme Court. The CBI recovered Rs 1 crore, allegedly paid as a bribe, from an aide of Justice Quddusi.
The CBI made the seizure a day after a SC Bench headed by the CJI on September 18 dismissed a petition filed by Prasad Education Trust seeking relief against the Government’s decision to debar them from admitting medical students for the next two years.
The SC Bench deprecated the conduct of Bhushan for unnecessarily dragging the name of the CJI by casting aspersions on him without any proof. The court held that the CBI FIR did not name any judge of a High Court or the Supreme Court for receiving any bribe to fix the case in the SC. Moreover, the court said when the alleged bribe money was exchanged, the case was not pending with the SC Bench.
“Any complaint against a judge and investigation by the CBI if given publicity will have a far reaching effect on the judge and the litigant public…the petition wrongly presupposes that investigation involves higher judiciary, i.e. this court’s functionaries are under the scanner…rightly FIR has not been registered against any sitting judge. Otherwise, on unfounded allegations, any honest judge to the core can be defamed, and reputation can be jeopardised. No judge can be held responsible for what may, or has happened in the corridors, or for ‘who purports to sell whom’,” said Justice Mishra, writing the judgment for the Bench.
He wondered how the order passed by the CJI debarring the medical college in question for this academic year amounted to “favourable order” and said, “after decision has been rendered on September 18 by this court, an FIR has been lodged and it appears that money was yet to be exchanged…thus it is far-fetched and too tenuous to even assume or allege that the matter was pending in this court for which any bribe was to be delivered to anyone.”
The SC slammed Bhushan and said, “An effort (by filing such petitions and the zest with which it is pursued) was made to create ripples in this court; serious and unwanted shadow of doubt has been created for no good reason by filing the petition which was wholly scandalous and ought not to have been filed.”
Further, the SC noted that by seeking recusal of Justice Khanwilkar (one of the judges who passed the September 18 order), the petitioners aggravated the contempt. Although the SC termed the conduct of petitioners as “unethical, unwarranted, and amounting to forum hunting”, the SC spared the petitioners from facing contempt proceedings as the petitioner had stated that the petition does not intend to name any individual.
The court hoped good sense will prevail among legal fraternity as damage was caused to the institution. It re-asserted the recent Constitution Bench decision that the CJI was the master of roster who alone could decide assigning hearing of a case. Further, it dismissed the demand for recusal of Justice Khanwilkar in the absence of any material to show his conflict of interest to hear the present petition.
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