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Modi govt sitting on CJI’s move to impeach Allahabad HC judge over MCI scam since January

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Justice Shri Narayan Shukla is accused of impropriety in dealing with a government bar on admissions to some medical colleges.

New Delhi: It’s been almost seven months since Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra recommended the impeachment of Allahabad High Court judge Shri Narayan Shukla, who is accused of judicial impropriety, but the Narendra Modi government is yet to act on it.

Sources told ThePrint that there has been little movement in the matter even though Justice Shukla was found guilty in January by an in-house committee of judges headed by Madras High Court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee. It was after this inquiry that CJI Misra recommended his impeachment in a letter to the President.


Also read: Modi govt tells Parliament: ‘Haven’t received any information on crisis from judiciary’


According to the rules, once the CJI has written to the President or the Prime Minister to recommend the impeachment of a high court judge, the government is bound to put the process in motion.

As it happened in the case of Calcutta High Court judge Soumitra Sen, whose impeachment was recommended by then CJI K.G. Balakrishnan, the government has to (or persuade a key opposition party to) obtain signatures of at least 100 Lok Sabha or 50 Rajya Sabha members on a motion to start impeachment proceedings.

Once the motion is submitted, the presiding officer of the House in question constitutes a committee of jurists to probe the charges against the judge.

Justice Shukla, who is scheduled to retire in 2020, has not been assigned any judicial work since 23 January.

The case against Justice Shukla

Last year, a bench of the Allahabad high court headed by Justice Shukla went out of its way to arbitrarily provide relief to medical colleges debarred by the Centre from admitting students for two years (2017-18 and 2018-19). The Centre’s move came on the recommendation of the Medical Council of India (MCI).

Justice Shukla, in what amounts to grave impropriety, also made unilateral changes to an order passed by the bench to provide undue benefit to the erring colleges.

Now known as the MCI scam, the matter hit the headlines after the CBI arrested former Orissa High Court judge I.M. Quddusi and some middlemen for their alleged involvement in attempts to “buy relief” from the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court.

The CBI also has in its possession phone conversations involving Quddusi and others that reportedly suggest the rot could have reached the top court.

In one of the conversations, Quddusi is purportedly heard indicating that he can get work done in the “top court”.

Quddusi was granted bail by a Delhi court within days of his arrest.


Also read: Modi govt at it again, now rejects 2 names recommended for judges to J&K high court


One of the controversial MCI scam cases – involving Prasad Medical Trust – was heard in the Supreme Court by a bench headed by the CJI, who also came down heavily on the Allahabad High Court bench for its controversial orders.

In one of the earlier cases (GCRG Memorial Trust), Justice Shukla’s bench, which also comprised Justice Virendra Kumar-II, quashed the orders of the MCI and the health ministry barring admissions.

The bench asked the MCI and the ministry to “make available students willing to take admission in petitioner college” within the prescribed time-frame. However, it was a day after the last date for admissions, 31 August, 2017, fixed by the Supreme Court, had lapsed.

Four days later, in violation of the 28 August, 2017, order of the Supreme Court, Shukla’s bench extended the date of admissions to 5 September, 2017.

After the Centre apprised it of the matter, the Supreme Court took note and observed that the division bench headed by Justice Shukla had abandoned “the concept of judicial propriety” and transgressed judicial rules to “proceed on a path where it was not required to”.

The case of Prasad Medical Trust, which was also handled by Justice Shukla’s bench, became part of the petition submitted by 71 Rajya Sabha members from the opposition to seek the CJI’s impeachment.

At a press conference held in January, advocate Prashant Bhushan, who is also associated with the Campaign for Judicial Accountability & Reforms (CJAR), alleged that the CJI had denied the CBI permission to register an FIR against Justice Shukla.

However, in a controversial decision, the impeachment motion was rejected by Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.


Also read: Why Venkaiah Naidu denied the opposition’s motion for CJI’s impeachment


 

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