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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a plea seeking an SIT probe into an alleged case of bribery in the name of judges, saying it was “wholly scandalous”.
It also deprecated the conduct of advocates in filing petitions aimed at bringing disrepute to the institution without any rhyme or reason.
The apex court said the plea was filed to “create ripples” in the judiciary by making allegations against the Chief Justice of India and an attempt was also made for “forum hunting” by seeking recusal of one of the judge’s of the bench, which tantamounts to contempt of court.
The top court expressed displeasure while rejecting the petition filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal, saying senior advocate Shanti Bhushan and lawyer Prashant Bhushan had made “unfounded allegations” against the system and the CJI.
Criticising the attempt to seek recusal of one of the judges in the matter, a bench of Justices R K Agrawal, Arun Mishra and A M Khanwilkar said, “we find that it is another attempt to bring the system in disrepute. Casting of unwarranted aspersions tantamounts to seriously jeopardising the independence of the judiciary”.
The petition had claimed that allegations of bribery were levelled for securing settlement of cases relating to medical colleges in which a retired Orissa High Court judge, Ishrat Masroor Quddusi, is one of the accused.
The top court held that filing of such petitions and the zest with which it was 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,” the bench said.
It said “unfounded allegations” ought not to have been made against the system and that too against the CJI, and such pleas should not have been preferred in case the majesty of the judicial system has to survive.
The apex court said the submission of the petitioner that CJI Dipak Misra should not hear the matter or should not assign it on administrative side, was “highly improper” and “it was an attempt of choosing a forum by submitting that Chief Justice of India should not have formed the bench”.
“Yet another disturbing feature which aggravates the situation is that prayer has been made that one of us, Justice A M Khanwilkar, should recuse from the matter. This is nothing but another attempt of forum hunting which cannot be permitted,” the bench said in its 38-page order.
The petitioner had sought recusal of Justice Khanwilkar contending that he had decided the matter of medical college with respect to which an FIR was lodged by the CBI.
“In our opinion, rather it is the duty of the bench to take up such matters firmly; such unscrupulous allegations and insinuations cannot be allowed to be hurled by oral prayer made on behalf of the petitioner for recusal,” it said.
“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,” it said.
The bench said such things cannot be ignored as it would be the “saddest day” for the Indian judicial system to ignore such aspects on unfounded allegations and materials.
It said another petition, raising similar issue, was mentioned before a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar despite the fact that a similar plea was already listed for hearing before a bench headed by Justice A K Sikri.
“The submissions so raised, and averments so made, in this petition, and the entire scenario created by filing of two successive petitions, are really disturbing. The entire judicial system has been unnecessarily brought into disrepute for no good cause whatsoever,” it said.
Terming the facts of the case as “disturbing”, the bench said the pleas filed by Jaiswal and the Commission for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR), were identically worded.
The bench also said that even though there were allegations against the CJI, it was he who has to assign the case to a bench as considered appropriate by him.
Referring to a constitution bench judgement of 1991, the court made it clear that there was no question of registering any FIR against any sitting judge.
“Thus the instant petitions … are a misconceived venture inasmuch as the petition wrongly pre-supposes that investigation involves higher judiciary, that is this court’s functionaries, are under the scanner in the aforesaid case; that independence of judiciary cannot be left at the mercy of the CBI or that of the police is a red herring,” it said.
It said the petitioner’s contentions about the constitution bench’s decision that the CJI was the master of roster should be ignored, was “wholly unfounded”, as even the order passed by the bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar had said that the matter be referred to a bench of five senior- most judges of the apex court that would include the CJI too.
“Let good sense prevail over the legal fraternity and amends be made as lot of uncalled for damage has been made to the great institution in which public reposes their faith. We deprecate the conduct of forum hunting that too involving senior lawyer of this Court.
“Such conduct tantamounts wholly unethical, unwarranted and nothing but forum hunting,” it said.
Regarding the hearing conducted by the constitution bench on November 10, the court said it was a fait accompli and circumstances compelled the hearing on that day since an order was passed a day before by a two-judge bench “bypassing” the power of CJI to constitute a five-judge bench.
“The cases cannot be assigned by judicial order. Such judicial order is simply to be ignored as it is not open to the judges to decide which matter is to be heard by whom as laid down by constitution bench,” it said.