SC decries scandalous charges against CJI

SC decries scandalous charges against CJI

The Supreme Court on Monday decried scandalous charges levelled against the Chief Justice of India and asked if it does not amount to contempt of court.

The top court questioned the attempt made last week to get a PIL alleging corruption in higher judiciary listed and heard before a bench presided over by the second senior-most judge, Justice J Chelameswar. "Does it not amount to forum shopping and contempt of court," it asked.

"By filing this petition, you have denigrated the institution and caused deep wound. Everybody is doubting our credibility," a three-judge bench of Justices R K Agrawal, Arun Mishra and A M Khanwilkar said as it took up the petition filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal. The petitioner sought a SIT probe headed by a former CJI into a CBI FIR in the medical colleges scam.

The court reserved its judgement for Tuesday on maintainability of the plea, even as Attorney General K K Venugopal submitted, "Today this court is facing a crisis. Judges have become vulnerable. The petitioner created a wedge between the judiciary and members of Bar. It is a case of crisis of confidence; they want to drive investigation in a particular direction."

Withdraw PIL

He said the petitioner should withdraw her plea.

Maintaining that there was nothing against any judge of the apex court in the CBI FIR, lodged on September 19, the bench questioned senior advocate Shanti Bhushan and advocate Prashant Bhushan, the propriety of filing a second identically-worded petition (by Jaiswal on Nov 9) and insisting on it being heard by a bench presided over by Justice Chelameswar, when a similar petition filed by NGO 'Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms' was to come up for hearing on November 10.

"We are on question of propriety. Does it not amount to forum hunting and forum shopping? Why did you insist on hearing by court no 2? We are all equal. Both CJI and court no 2 are equally important for us," the bench repeatedly questioned the counsels.

Senior advocate Bhushan said it was an important constitutional issue as money was collected for influencing the bench that passed an order in the matter concerning a medical college. He said the order passed by a five-judge bench presided over by CJI on Friday (Nov 10), annulling the order of Justice Chelameswar-led bench a day earlier for setting up a Constitution bench to examine the issue, was "totally illegal". The order of Chelameswar-led bench was "binding on the CJI" as all civil and judicial authorities have to act in aid of the Supreme Court in terms of Articles 144 and 147 of the Constitution.

Friday's  order

Friday's order declared the CJI is master of the roster and no matter could be heard by a bench unless assigned to it.

Referring to Friday's judgement, the three-judge bench said, "It was not unprecedented. It would have become fait accompli if the judgement was not delivered."

Advocate Prashant, assisting his father, submitted the second petition by Jaiswal was filed as the CJI should not have exercised his jurisdiction to post the previous petition by NGO before a bench presided over by Justice A K Sikri.

Both the counsels urged Justice Khanwilkar to recuse from hearing the petition as he was also a part of the bench that passed an order in the medical college case.

The bench maintained that Justice Khanwilkar would not recuse from hearing Jaiswal's petition.

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