Monday, 24 January, 2022
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CJI’s action on bribery charge is SC’s biggest-ever crisis, and it comes from within

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CJI has the power to decide who will hear a case. But he is still expected to exercise it fairly, especially when there is an obvious conflict of interest.

The Chief Justice of India, for the first time, has violated the most basic norm of any decision-making authority — that no one shall be a judge in his or her own case.

It’s a monumental farce. The brazenness with which the CJI has ridden roughshod over not only all norms of judicial propriety and judicial conduct, but also his own colleague, and in the process, has damaged the Supreme Court as an institution.

This is something that is not expected of any judge anywhere — whether he is the CJI or a munsif in a small court. And for the CJI to do this in such a public manner brings down the credibility of judiciary as a whole; that too in an instance where the allegation related to corruption on the part of judges, and potentially involved Justice Dipak Misra himself.

The first information report filed by the CBI does not name him explicitly, but the fact that he was presiding over the bench which was handling medical educational institution cases in the Supreme Court when the alleged bribery took place, cannot be lost sight of.

It required a fair and impartial probe by a body which was not susceptible to any outside influence or pressure. This is just what was thought by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms, and Kamini Jaiswal.

It also highlights the weaknesses within the institution in handling a delicate situation such as this. What Justice Jasti Chelameswar did was to take a call to figure out how the situation could be addressed in a fair and impartial manner, even though procedurally, there may be some basis to suggest that he should not have directly referred the matter to a Constitution Bench.

If Justice Dipak Misra had simply allowed this to continue and, if eventually there was no action required to be taken, the minor procedural irregularity could have been condoned. However, by acting in the manner that he did Friday, he has really undermined the credibility of the Supreme Court and the office of the CJI.

If nothing else, this is only going to increase the doubts about his culpability in the offence in the eyes of a neutral and impartial observer.

It is true that as master of the rolls, the CJI has the power to decide who will hear a case in court. But he is still expected to exercise this power in a fair and judicious manner. More so, when there is a clear and obvious conflict of interest. By recalling the order of Justice Chelameswar, the CJI has exercised his power in a manner that amounts to its abuse, and has interfered in the course of justice in this case.

In my view, it is no different from what President Richard Nixon tried to do in the Watergate scandal or what President Trump could legitimately be accused of doing when he fired FBI chief James Comey in the context of Russia scandal.

It remains to be seen how the other judges of the Supreme Court will address or respond to these events – how the larger Supreme Court bar, senior advocates not present in court today, and other stakeholders in the institution – will respond to this conduct.

Make no mistake, this is the biggest crisis that the Supreme Court has faced in its history, simply because the threat to its credibility and its integrity has come from within.

 

Read more:‘Fracas in Supreme Court: There’s deep distrust at the top’ by Raju Ramachandran and ‘If judiciary can’t get its act together, then god save India’ by Santosh Hegde

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16 COMMENTS

  1. Supreme court of India is not mere petition house for hearing all the petitions. It is right to impose restrictions on itself on not to hear all matters. It is not a munsif court that would hear everything. Art 32 has not given unfettered power that sci would have to hear anything. Already Indian judiciary is over burdened with cases. Adopting the suitable procedure it should be ensured that only such cases where interpretation of law of highest level is involved which could not be decided properly by the high courts. Supreme court is not fact finding court. What the Hon’ble CJI did is correct. If CJI could not decide anything then I shall have to gather that we are not in democracy but rather in anarchy.

  2. We are going to witness more such happenings in future as corridor gossips on corruption and judges favoring particular individual or section of lawyers is disturbing the bar. Here in this incident it is reported that CJI has invited lawyers to the court. Hearing a case involving corruption in judiciary is not a party to celebrate with a particular section of lawyers. These followers also perform their brief by demanding contempt proceedings against Mr. Prashant Bushan. We see this trend bar and bench colluding in the raise and its time that we draw inspiration from Mr Bushan and Ms Kamini Jaiswal and say that we are not going to take it any more.

  3. Open letter to the Hon’ble Supreme Court and to all my friends and colleagues at the bar:

    Casting allegations or insinuation on my Chief Justice is not just contempt of Court but is most unfortunate and a deliberate attempt to malign the repute, dignity and majesty of the Supreme Court – the highest Court of the land- an embodiment of justice.

    I am sorry, but Mr Bhushan has no business to do so, and is totally out of line. He is disrespecting not just My Chief Justice, the Supreme Court, Judiciary but also our Noble Profession of law.

    What he calls, unbecoming conduct referring to the Judiciary, I call unbecoming conduct of a lawyer. He is totally out of line, plain wrong and out of his mind too. He has not just committed contempt, but has also embarrassed the noble profession of law by doing this and is setting a terrible example for the young lawyers and law students who look upto him.

    I stand firmly in support of my Chief Justice. He is the best Chief Justice that India has had and will have in recent times and even a better human being. Mr. Bhushan should apologise for his bad behaviour and conduct.

    Regards,

    Anupam Tripathi
    Advocate
    Supreme Court of India

  4. all human are equal so to err your own credibility ,can’t overzealous participation in law against law?

  5. The Supreme Court is mockery of democracy right from its constitution under constitution of india.The supreme court has tendency to dismiss petition slpc appeal filed through ordinary aor and filed by ordinary citizens in persobwho have no connection with judges without quoting even one reason while hears matters filed by senior advocates This court hears review petition and review application without giving opportunity of argument to ordinary lawyer and party appearing in person on other hand review petitions and application filed through senior advocates having good terms with judges are heard in open court and lawyers in these petition get opportunity of arguments
    This court has no respect for constitution of India as art 32 is fundamental right and right to file petition under art 32 is fundamental right and court cannot compel petition to file application requesting supreme court to allow them to appear in person but such practice has imposed restriction and supreme court no authority to impose such restriction
    I have requested public information officer of supreme court to provide
    No of petition dismissed before issuance of notice
    No of review petition heard in chamber without giving opportunity of argument
    No of petitions heard in chamber by giving opportunity of oral argument
    No of petition heard in open court by giving opportunity of hearing but no into was given to me My first appeal under rti was dismissed
    I have no hope from Mr radhskrishna Mathur present CIC who is worst and is not willing to read judgments which are binding on him he has already set right to information into right to deny information.

  6. The Friday incident in the Apex Court is really shocking. Although the chief justice is the administration and Fridays action of justice chalameswar was slightly inappropriate to usurp CJI’s powers, the image of CJI would have only gone up had ignored the technical part and upheld the order in the larger interest of transperancy and fairness in administration of justice. After all justice not merely be done should also be appeared to be done

  7. I think give the devil a fair chance, media loves to give twist to bring readership to their site. They have the writings or articles only to generate revenue, same time being fair is critical. Ur article is written in a manner similar to what CJI has done. U have to balance 360 degree view and allow public to decide, always finding fault or reading in between helps to bring more readers. CJI did best in the scenario he s caught, fair enough off . Let justice prevail to C who is rite.

  8. It is customary for India’s judiciary to interfere with the course of justice in order to pander to their pay masters. Nothing new.

    In the course of several decades of “stay” Motherass High Court asked my lawyer, in open court, “If he wants to remarry, why does he not become a Moslem? Why is he still a Brahmin?”. After several years of “stay” Karinayithikka High Court tells my lawyer, in open court, that the Indian Penal Code is not applicable here because this is not the US or UK, before letting off 10 accused VIPs (from 2 years SI for defamation and 3 years RI for fabrication of evidence) against whom I had brought a cognized criminal case. Both the stay and the quashing were regardless of law, facts, evidence or procedure. On appeal, the Supreme Court declined to uphold the rule of law.

    The judiciary have been enabled to be unaccountable to notions of law, equity and fair play by the executive and superior courts through social engineering appointments and immunity from impeachment among other things and by the Constitution that has enshrined exceptions to both the Rule of Law and Equality under law in the Indian Constitution. Apart from eroding competence and integrity, the resultant culture has bred insouciance and arbitrariness of a very high order. The deleterious effect of this on the National character has been as extreme as the corrosion of education for political convenience. Today the Courts are defenders of the four important principles of any Banana Republic, “Just because you did it does not mean you are criminal”, “Just because the statute book says so, does not make your actions a crime”, “Evidence lies in the perception of the judge”, and “Just because you did not do it, does not mean you are innocent”.

    The climate all this has created over the last Seventy Years has ensured a playing field that favours criminals and criminals alone.

  9. The Great Indian Civil War, Constitutionally wrought by reservations, extortion, inequality under law and exceptions to the rule of law surfaces from time to time like a Karnan.

  10. The issue is in consonance with the existing trend of Indian (rather, global) polity, society. Those at the helm think they are omni-potent and not answerable… even to the Gods. Ethics are the last strata. Are we heading towards, after committed ‘police’, committed ‘administration’ now the ‘committed’ judiciary……. where judiciary and administration work hand in glove?
    May this country awake!

  11. Transparency and fairness in judiciary is very important. Corruption in justice delivery system is in public domain now. Every citizen is in the know of it. Sanitization of the whole Judicial system including appointments is the need of the times.

  12. I am completely confused by the reporting on this matter of what the CJI led bench did today. Ignoring “Op-Eds”, I have gone through all of the material available to the general public (which includes the author of this article) and here is what I have found – the same research can be done by any lay person, sitting anywhere in the world.

    1. Medical Council of India passed an order against 40+ medical colleges sometime earlier this year (prior to Aug/Sep 2017).
    2. These colleges, including Prasad Educational Trust (PET), approached the Supreme Court (a 3-judge bench headed by CJI), which passed on order on 01-Aug-2017 that the Central Govt. was to look afresh at how the medical colleges were operating. However, it put a time limit on this – 10 Days – and listed the matter for hearing on 24-Aug-2017. Link: http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/supremecourt/2017/17343/17343_2017_Order_01-Aug-2017.pdf
    3. Now per Supreme Court’s instructions, PET’s application was re-evaluated, they were considered unfit and the Central Govt. authorized Medical Council of India (MCI) to encash the Rs. 2 crore bank guarantee provided by PET, and also allowed a de-listing (as a medical college) of PET.
    4. PET initially approached the Supreme Court against this order of MCI but then withdrew (apparently on the advice of Mr. I.M. Quddusi) and approached the Allahabad High Court, where it obtained an order that MCI will not encash the bank guarantee money. The High Court of Allahabad clarified that no relief was bring granted to Prasad Education Trust and that it could not (repeat NOT) admit any students for the next academic year.
    5. MCI approached the Supreme Court against this order of the Allahabad High Court through a Special Leave Petition where a 3-judge bench (again headed by CJI) ordered – on 29-Aug-2017 – that since no relief in terms of admitting new students was being requested by the respondent (PET), the SLP before it, as well as the writ filed in Allahabad High Court, stood disposed-of. SCI also maintained that the bank guarantee would NOT be encashed by MCI. http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/supremecourt/2017/26816/26816_2017_Order_29-Aug-2017.pdf
    6. Now, as per CBI’s FIR, the Prasad Education Trust engaged Mr. Quddusi, Ms. Pandey and others to get the matter favorably settled in the Supreme Court. Towards this objective, Writ Petition 797 was filed in SCI by PET to which a 3-judge bench (headed by CJI) passed the order indicating “no renewal for academic year 2017-2018” and fresh letters of permission (LOP) would need to be issued by MCI after an inspection of PET’s premises, for the academic year 2018-2019. http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/supremecourt/2017/27428/27428_2017_Order_18-Sep-2017.pdf
    7. CBI filed an FIR indicating a criminal conspiracy to bribe public officials. Nowhere does this FIR list the CJI or any other judge of SCI. http://cbi.gov.in/firs/2017/2017_pdf/2017_ac3_firs/RC2182017A0010.pdf
    8. Justice Chelameswar and Justice Nazeer heard a petition by Kamini Jaiswal on 9th Nov 2017 about an attempt to influence decisions through providing monetary gratification. They passed an order, which instructed the setting up of a 5-judge bench comprising “five senior most judges” and be listed for hearing on 13-Nov-2017. http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/supremecourt/2017/35980/35980_2017_Order_09-Nov-2017.pdf
    9. A similar petition (dealing in corruption in courts) was listed for hearing in the court of Justice Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan on 10-Nov-2017, filed by CJAR, represented by Mr. Prashant Bhushan. This bench passed an order to *refer* the matter to a constitution bench and referred the matter by CJI, as per protocol.
    10. CJI constituted a 7-judge (reduced to 5-judge because of 2 recusals) and indicated that the order passed by the bench headed by J. Chelameswar was not valid as only the CJI (as master of roster) had the authority to constitute benches and decide on their composition. http://supremecourtofindia.nic.in/supremecourt/2017/34846/34846_2017_Order_10-Nov-2017.pdf
    11. The 5-judge bench headed by CJI passed an order on 10-Nov-2017 setting up a constitution bench (composition as yet to be determined) and listed the same matter 2-weeks from today.

    Nowhere has there been any indication of favorable judgements being passed in favor of PET. A non-lawyer like me can go through this material and call out the bluster being raised by Dushyant Dave and Prashant Bhushan. On what basis is the CJI’s recusal (legally up to him entirely) being demanded? Is there material that points to CJI or other judges being bribed (as Prashant Bhushan implies)?

    Can the author explain how an impropriety has been committed by the CJI? Is there material he is privy to that is not in the public eye? I am really curious to know.

  13. Sir, we the citizen are the biggest stake holder in the institution called Supreme Court.We must speak out.

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