New Delhi, November 14
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal seeking setting up of a special investigation team (SIT) under the supervision of a retired Chief Justice of India to probe allegations of bribery to procure judicial orders in a medical college admissions case.
A three-judge Bench of Justices RK Agrawal, Arun Mishra and AM Khanwilkar said acts of advocates Kamini Jaiswal and Prashant Bhushan and senior advocate Dushyant Dave were contemputous but chose not to initiate contempt proceedings against them.
The Bench also indicted them for forum shopping as they knew that a petition was pending before a Bench headed by Justice AK Sikri and still filed a second similar petition and mentioned it before Justice J Chelameswar’s Bench.
The order passed by Justice Chelameswar’s Bench to refer the petition to five top judges had created a storm and the CJI set up a Five-Judge Constitution Bench headed by him that asserted his authority as “the master of the roster” and effectively overturned the order passed by Justice Chelameswar’s Bench.
It said because of unverified and unsubstantiated charges levelled by senior advocates, doubt was cast on this great institution, that is, the Supreme Court.
The Bench deprecated the conduct of the lawyers in the case.
The verdict authored by Justice Arun Mishra sought to emphasise that the FIR didn’t mention the names of any judges of the top court.
After a not-so-volatile hearing, the bench had on Monday reserved its verdict in the case.
The case had made national headlines after a hearing before a Constitution Bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra on Friday afternoon, when advocate Prashant Bhushan had stormed out after being repeatedly interrupted by other lawyers and the Bench.
While reserving the verdict on Monday, the three judges were also part of the five-judge Constitution Bench that on Friday had reiterated supremacy of the CJI in setting up Benches.
The Bench had made it clear that it would decide only two issues—if filing of two identical petitions amounted to forum hunting and if the allegations made against the CJI amounted to contempt.
It had refused to entertain arguments from senior counsel Shanti Bhushan, representing Jaiswal, against Friday’s Constitution Bench that asserted the CJI’s authority as “the master of the roster”.
Shanti Bhushan had pointed out that the order passed by a two-judge Bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar on Thursday was still valid and under Article 144, all civil and judicial authorities, including the CJI, were bound to obey it. Terming the allegations in the petition disturbing, Justice Chelameswar had referred it to a Constitution Bench of top five judges.
Justice Mishra, who did most of the talking on Monday, had said prima facie the allegations amounted to a deliberate attempt to scandalise and denigrate the institution of the CJI.
Justice Agrawal had spoken only twice—to ask for submissions on merits and then to reserve the verdict, while Justice Khanwilkar did not speak at all, not even after the petitioner demanded his recusal on Monday.
Prashant Bhushan had repeatedly clarified that there were no direct allegations against the CJI and that the petitions were filed due to seriousness of the allegations in the CBI FIR that named a former Justice of Odisha High Court, IM Quddusi, and certain unnamed public servants.
Quddusi was arrested along with Lucknow-based Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences chairman BP Yadav, his son Palash Yadav and three others.
Attorney General KK Venugopal on Monday said the two petitions and last week’s events had caused serious damage to the institution of judiciary. He suggested that the petitioner should withdraw her petition. He clarified that he was not representing the government and that it was his submission as a person occupying a constitutional position. Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Centre, opposed the petition, terming it scandalous.