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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday set up a bench of five most senior judges to examine whether a retired CJI-supervised Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe was required into allegations that middlemen were in nexus with certain judges of the higher judiciary in a racket to fix judicial orders to enable admissions into medical colleges debarred from admitting students for lack of infrastructure.
The unusual development followed the sensational allegation levelled by advocate-petitioner Kamini Jaiswal that the scandal of medical admissions being probed by the CBI involved SC and HC judges. A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer agreed to hear the case within two hours of it being mentioned by senior advocate Dushyant Dave for urgent hearing, sending ripples of excitement through the apex court corridors.
There was unprecedented drama as word spread that Justice Chelameswar had decided to hear a petition making allegations against the CJI at 12.45pm. The suspense heightened, as a five-judge constitution bench headed by the CJI, which was hearing the fight between the AAP government and the Centre, got up at 12.15pm, a good 45 minutes before the lunch break.
The matter concerns the arrest of former Orissa HC judge I M Qudussi and others for allegedly helping a medical college in Uttar Pradesh, which was found by the Medical Council of India (MCI) to be deficient in infrastructure required to impart medical education, enrol fresh students on the strength of orders controversially passed by two judges of Allahabad HC’s Lucknow bench. The two HC judges accepted a plea by the college to admit students despite an SC order specifically prohibiting subordinate courts from doing so.
Raising the matter, Dave said the CBI FIR narrating activities of retired Qudussi and alleged middlemen revealed their alleged deep nexus with judges of constitutional courts.
Justices Chelameswar and Nazeer agreed with Dave about the sensitivity of the issue and said the matter was “too important for the institution and the country”. They said, “The FIR contained certain allegations which are disturbing. The allegations pertain to the functioning of this court. Dave makes submissions highlighting various aspects of the matter, details of which we do not propose to make in this order. But, at the same time, we are also duty bound to place the developments that when the hearing of the matter was in progress, the officer of the registry placed a xerox copy of the proceedings purportedly issued by the Chief Justice of India.”
Posting the matter for Monday before a bench comprising CJI Dipak Misra and Justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, Justices Chelameswar and Nazeer said, “Having regard to the totality of circumstances, we deem it appropriate that this matter be heard by the constitution bench of the first five judges in the order of seniority of this court. We also deem it appropriate that the matter be listed on Monday.”
The two-judge bench issued notices to the CBI and Centre, directing the agency to bring the “entire material collected by the agency in the course of investigation of the crime, keep it in sealed cover and produce it before the constitution bench on Monday”.
More drama was in store as Dave said since the cases relating to medical colleges, denied sanction by the MCI and the Union government to admit students, was heard and decided by a CJI-led bench, propriety demanded that the CJI should not be part of any bench that adjudicated Jaiswal’s petition.
He said apart from alleged judge-middleman nexus, there was another reason why the CBI case was required to be probed by an SIT supervised by a retired CJI. He said the CBI being pliant to the government of the day, the executive could use the investigation to armtwist the judiciary and seriously impede its independence.
The CBI had arrested Qudussi and four others in connection with the case relating to Prasad Education Trust, which was granted a favourable order by Allahabad HC on August 25. When the MCI appealed against the order in the SC, a bench headed by the CJI had recorded that the college did not claim benefit of the HC order and disposed it of on August 29. Prasad Education Trust again filed a writ petition before the SC, which was dealt by the bench headed by the CJI, which passed a common order for all medical colleges before it on September 18.
The CBI had registered a case against Qudussi and others on September 19, a day after the CJI-led bench barred deficient private colleges including Prasad Education Trust, which were denied permission to admit students by the MCI, from taking in students for academic session 2017-18. It had ordered that applications for grant of permission would be considered by the MCI and the Centre for the academic year 2018-19 after inspection of infrastructure and other facilities in the medical colleges.