SC overturns 2-judge bench order on judges bribery case

SC overturns 2-judge bench order on judges bribery case

The Supreme Court on Friday annulled an order to set up a Constitution bench to decide on monitoring the CBI probe in the medical colleges scam, allegedly involving members of the highest judiciary.

In a special sitting, a five-judge Constitution bench presided over by Chief Justice Dipak Misra declared as "ineffective and not binding" an order passed by a two-judge bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer on Thursday.

"CJI is the master of roster, though on judicial side, he is first among equals. No judge can hear a matter unless assigned by the CJI, neither two-judge or three-judge can allocate any matter to themselves, otherwise it would lead to anarchy and chaos in administration of justice," the bench, also comprising Justices R K Agrawal, Arun Mishra, Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar, said.

The court passed its after setting up a five-judge bench in a PIL filed by NGO 'Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms', even as advocate Prashant Bhushan made loud protest alleging the CJI should not hear it as the charges squarely covered him.

"It is factually-incorrect. No FIR can be registered against any judge of the country as judges are protected under the Constitution. It cannot be even against a judge of a district court or a High Court, much less of a Supreme Court, without sanction," the bench said.

"What kind of FIR is against me? What nonsense? Please read the FIR," the CJI told Bhushan, who contended, "You would bring gross disrepute to the institution by taking up this case".

The CJI asked Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha to read out orders passed by the court in September, relating to a particular medical college. The case has led to arrest of a former Orissa HC judge I M Quddusi and others by the CBI. The CJI said he had already instituted an in-house inquiry against the Allahabad HC judge for passing a particular order.

"How can we know what anybody talks about us... Can judiciary be left to the disposal of a Sub Inspector or an SHO," the bench asked Bhushan as he dared the court to issue contempt against him.
The bench then said, "You are not worth contempt."

The bench also asked if a particular advocate can demand a specific bench should hear the matter. Senior advocate Dushyant Dave has on Thursday impressed upon a bench led by Justice Chelameswar to hear a petition filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal. The court had then sent the matter to the Constitution bench after noting allegations are "disturbing" and pertained to functioning of the apex court.

The court also asked why it was insisted upon to hear Jaiswal's petition when a similar plea by the NGO was filed and put up for hearing before a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan for Friday,
"It is not shocking that an advocate would say who should hear who not. Is it not denigrating us or undermining the edifice of the institution," the bench asked.

Bhushan maintained that Jaiswal's petition has not been listed before the bench. He also called the proceedings before the Constitution bench as "unusual and extra-ordinary". He, along with Jaiswal, contended that such kind of proceedings has not been seen in the history of the Supreme Court. Finally, Bhushan stormed out of the courtroom, saying "pass whatever order you want to pass".

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Narasimha said the order passed by a two-judge bench was against the SC rulings, SC Rules and precedents and must be set aside. SC Bar Association President R S Suri, senior advocates Ajit Sinha and other senior counsel submitted forum-shopping, browbeating of judges and casting aspersion on the CJI was impermissible.

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