SC refers plea on bribes taken in judges' name to Constitution bench

It may be recalled that on October 12, a Division Bench of Supreme Court, headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Navin Sinha, had rejected an intervention petition filed by the Assam Pradesh Congress party challenging the Gauhati High Court order rejecting the validity of the Panchayat certificate issued as proof of citizenship for the goal of the updating of NRC.

Post FIR raids more than Rs 2 crore was recovered and CBI made arrests including that of Justice Qudussi.

The petitioners believed there would be a conflict of interest if Misra was involved in hearing the case.

"., There can not be any direction to the Chief Justice of India as to who shall be sitting on the Bench or who shall take up the matter as that touches the composition of the Bench".

The Supreme Court on Friday axed an order passed by a bench headed by Justice J. Chelameswar to set up a constitution bench to hear a plea for a SIT probe into graft allegation involving a retired Orissa High Court judge, amidst high drama involving noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan, Chief Justice Dipak Misra and fellow lawyers. The CBI had conducted searches at eight locations, including the residence of the Justice (retired) Quddusi before filing a case against him.

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Jaiswal's petition was filed even as a plea by the NGO Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms seeking a similar probe in the case was already listed before the bench headed by Justice AK Sikri.

It overturned an order passed yesterday by a two-judge bench to constitute a five-judge bench to hear a matter of alleged bribes taken in the name of judges and said that neither a two-judge, nor a three-judge bench can direct the CJI to constitute a specific bench. "Justice needs to be delivered", the bench said. But when the Chief Justice is not available, such as when he or she may be presiding over a Constitution bench - as was the case on Thursday - the mentioning usually goes to the second senior-most judge of the court.

The special bench, he said, was unconstitutional and violated all cannons of norms and decency.

To this, Justice Sikri said "I am not interested".

"There cannot be a command or an order directing the CJI to constitute a bench of specific strength", the bench said while making it clear that neither a two-judge, nor a three- judge bench can direct the CJI to constitute a specific bench. As CJI told the petitioner that its dismissed as these are not matters to be decided on the judicially side, Mr. Luthra said he had a right to be heard before the matter was dismissed.

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During the charged-up hearing, Suri also questioned the manner in which the petition was mentioned yesterday before a bench headed by Justice Chelameswar at 10.30 am and was taken up for hearing by the bench at 12.45 pm itself.

However, the CJAR petition says that "these persons secured bail and no effort was made by the CBI to challenge their bail and nothing is known about the progress of the investigation".

The Chief Justice also rejected the suggestion that media be restrained from reporting the proceedings and that it be held in-camera.

Bhushan told CJI Misra, "FIR is lodged directly against you".

Pleading ignorance about the second petition that was filed by Kamini Jaiswal, Bhushan said that since the allegations were in respect of the matter heard by the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, he should not have exercised his administrative and judicial authority.

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  • Ryan Wade