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NEW DELHI: Finding substance in
allegations against the Allahabad high court Justice S N Shukla+
related to the medical admission scam, a three-judge in-house committee has recommended his removal to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
Acting on the committee’s recommendations and as per paragraph 7(i) of the in-house procedure, the CJI advised Justice Shukla to either resign or take voluntary retirement. However, Justice Shukla refused to do either. Left with no option, the CJI advised the Allahabad HC chief justice to withdraw judicial work from Justice Shukla with immediate effect, a step which can clear the way for Justice Shukla’s removal and for the CBI to register a case against him in connection with the medical admission scam which rocked the judiciary.
Justice Shukla, while heading a division bench in the HC, allegedly defied categorical restraint orders passed by a CJI-led bench last year to permit private colleges to admit students for the 2017-18 academic year. Two complaints, including one from the advocate general of the state, was received by the CJI on September 1 last year and he set up an in-house committee comprising Madras HC CJ Indira Banerjee, Sikkim HC CJ S K Agnihotri and MP HC Justice P K Jaiswal.
The inquiry committee said Justice Shukla had “disgraced the values of judicial life, acted in a manner unbecoming of a judge”, lowered the “majesty, dignity and credibility of his office” and acted in breach of his oath of office.
As per paragraph 7(ii) of the in-house procedure, the CJI will now recommend initiation of removal proceedings against Justice Shukla. Paragraph 7(ii) provides, “In case the judge expresses unwillingness to resign or seek voluntary retirement, the chief justice of the high court concerned should be advised by the Chief Justice of India not to allocate any judicial work to the judge concerned and the President and the prime minister shall be intimated that this had been done because allegations against the judge were found by the committee to be so serious as to warrant initiation of proceedings for removal.”
Once the CJI writes to the President and the PM recommending removal of an HC judge, the Rajya Sabha chairperson, who is also the Vice-President, appoints a three-judge inquiry panel in consultation with the CJI under the Judges (Enquiry) Act, 1968, to look into the allegations examined by the in-house committee. This inquiry panel will examine evidence and record finding which will form the basis for whether or not removal motion be debated in Rajya Sabha.
In 2010, such an inquiry panel set up by the Rajya Sabha chairperson had okayed initiation of removal proceedings against Calcutta HC Justice Soumitra Sen and the motion was adopted by the upper House. The judge resigned before Lok Sabha took up the removal motion against him.
In the current instance, after inquiring into allegations of favours granted by Justice Shukla to private medical colleges through judicial orders, the committee headed by Justice Banerjee gave a stinging report against the sitting HC judge. The report, forwarded to Allahabad HC CJ D B Bhosale, said “the committee concludes that there is sufficient substance in the allegations” against Justice Shukla and that the aberrations on his part were serious enough to warrant initiation of removal proceedings.
On December 8 last year, CJI Misra had set up the in-house committee to inquire into Justice Shukla’s alleged role in granting permission to private medical colleges to admit students despite a firm Supreme Court ban. This alleged aberration by the HC judge led to a CBI probe into the medical scam and arrest of an Orissa HC ex-judge I M Quddusi.
The CJI, however, did not immediately give the CBI the go-ahead to register an FIR against Justice Shukla as he believed the matter against a sitting judge needed to be probed first by an in-house committee. In the light of the Justice Banerjee-led committee’s finding that Justice Shukla was indeed guilty of misconduct, the prospects of the CJI allowing CBI to book the Allahabad HC judge look brighter.
The issue of who got to hear a PIL demanding an SIT probe into the medical education scam led the CJI to reaffirm his power as the ultimate arbiter of allocation of cases to benches — one of the triggers for the unrest among four seniormost judges and their unprecedented press conference.