The Supreme Court on Tuesday junked a petition, terming it as “scandalous”, for seeking an SIT probe into the allegations of graft involving a retired Orissa High Court judge and observed that the whole controversy has damaged the image of the top judiciary and created doubts about its integrity.
“Unnecessary doubts about the integrity of the institution have been created,” the bench of R.K. Agrawal, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar observed, as it deprecated the petition by lawyer Kamini Jaiswal.
Observing that nobody, including the judges of the top court, were above law, Justice Mishra pronouncing the judgment also said ‘No’ to contempt against the lawyers – Prashant Bhushan and Jaiswal – with a hope that “all will unitedly work for the welfare of the institution (top court)”.
Saying that “none of us” in the higher echelons was above law, the court said, “It is the duty of both the Bar and the Bench, to protect the dignity of the entire judicial system”.
“We find that filing of such petitions and the zest with which it is pursued, has brought the entire system in the last few days to unrest. An effort was made to create ripples in this court; serious and unwanted shadow of doubt has been created for no good reason whatsoever by way of filing the petition which was wholly scandalous and ought not to have been filed in such a method and manner. It is against the settled proposition of law,” said Justice Mishra speaking for the bench.
In case “majesty of our judicial system” has to survive, the court said that such kind of petitions should not have been preferred that too against the settled proposition of law laid down by this court.
Regretting that “unnecessary” aspersions were cast without proper verification of the facts, the court took a dim view of the plea for recusal of Justice Khanwilkar from the bench on the grounds that he along with Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had heard the matter relating to a Lucknow-based private medical college linked to the admission scam.
Saying that it was “far fetched and too tenuous” that any judge of this court, much less Justice Khanwilkar, has any interest in the subject matter before them, the court said: “There is no room for reasonable suspicion even in remote, and the argument is simply too derogatory to be made, probably that has been made anyhow, for somehow to protect the case and to bring disrepute to this court.”
“We cannot fall prey to such unscrupulous devices adopted by the litigants, so as to choose the benches, as that is a real threat to the very existence of the system itself and it would be denigrated in case we succumb to such pressure tactics,” the judgment said.
Pointing to the scenarios created by two petitions as “disturbing”, which has “unnecessarily brought into disrepute” the entire judiciary for “no good cause whatsoever”, the court said: “It passes comprehension, how it was that the petitioner presumed, that there is an FIR lodged against any public functionary.”
Referring to averment that FIR was against the highest judicial functionaries, the court said, “We do not find reflection of any name of the Judge of this Court in the FIR.”
Recalling its earlier judgment, the court said, “There is no question of registering any FIR against any sitting Judge of the High Court or of this Court as it is not permissible as per the law laid down by a Constitution Bench.”
How did it come to this?
On September 21, the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested a retired judge of the Orissa High Court, IM Quddusi, and five others on charges of taking money from a Lucknow medical college in return for helping them get a favourable judgement from the Supreme Court on the question of permissions to admit students from the Medical Council of India.
The college had earlier approached the Supreme Court against an order of the Union government denying them permission to admit students till 2019. On August 2, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to consider afresh the issue of granting permission to several private medical colleges barred from admitting students for academic years 2017-18 and 2018-19. It asked the government to re-evaluate the recommendations of the Medical Council of India, the hearing committee, the director general of health services (DGHS) and the oversight committee and grant a hearing to such medical colleges. A bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra said the process of hearing and final reasoned decision should be “completed peremptorily within 10 days from today” and directed the parties to “unfailingly cooperate” to meet the time frame.
An NGO called The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms led by Prashant Bhushan then filed a petition seeking a Supreme Court-monitored supervision of the ongoing CBI investigation. Advocate Kamini Jaiswal filed a similar petition later.
On November 9, a bench led by Justice J Chelameswar directed a Constitution bench of the court’s five seniormost judges to deal with the petition. The next day, this order was nullified by a fresh Constitution bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and a new bench set up by him.