Supreme Court order today on fate of judge 'bribery' pleas

When Prashant Bhushan took on CJI stormed out of Supreme Court

The court on Monday told Bhushan that he was aggravating the situation, as he later tried to defend the filing of the second petition and the prayer seeking probe by a SIT headed by a former Chief Justice of India and that Chief Justice Dipak Misra should not deal with the case both in his administrative and judicial authority.

The order was earlier passed by a bench of two judges comprising J Chelameswar, the senior most Judge after CJI and S Abdul Nazeer to hear a case of alleged bribery of judges in which a retired judge of Orissa High Court, Ishrat Masroor Quddusi is an accused.

Reserving the order to be pronounced on Tuesday, the bench of Justice R.K. Agrawal, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar on Monday described the conduct of the petition lawyer Kamini Jaiswal as "reckless and short on propriety which has damaged the institution".

But the Supreme Court's rules clearly establish that the Chief Justice as "master of the roster" must decide which judges are assigned to different cases.

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The question is "How to fix the damage", Justice Mishra asked in a poser to the counsel present in the court room.

The petition contends that alleged bribes were taken using the names of apex court judges for getting favourable order for a private medical college seeking relaxation in government order that barred from enrolling new students in medical courses.

Justice Arun Mishra, among the three judges who heard the case today, warned, "Everyone is doubting the credibility of the Supreme Court", he said, adding, "allegations shouldn't have been made against the Chief Justice of India as there is nothing (against him) in the FIR (or CBI's complaint)".

Meanwhile, Attorney General K K Venugopal said the petitioner should withdraw the plea as it has cost the reputation of the institution. Then, on Saturday, a three-judge bench was set up by CJI Misra to hear the matter next week. The other petition in the court was filed by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms.

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It supersedes an earlier circular issued on November 6, which said that whenever the CJI is hearing a matter pertaining to a Constitution bench, mentioning could be made before the Number 2 judge at 10.30am, but if there was a need for listing of cases on the same day, it had to be referred to the CJI for hearing at 3pm.

On November 9, another petition was filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal which was mentioned for an early hearing by senior counsel Dushyant Dave. However, the demand was not headed by the Bench.

It would be interesting to see what form this tussle between the senior-most Judges of the apex court would take as the CJI heading a Bench for hearing a case in which he himself faces graft allegation would go against the principles of natural justice.

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