No conflict of interest by CJI, rules top court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed the "highly improper and contemptuous" PIL filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal alleging a conflict of interest by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and seeking SIT probe into a CBI FIR pertaining to the medical college scam.

The top court said no judge or any person in the higher echelons of the judiciary was above the law but it was the duty of both the bar and the bench to protect the dignity of the entire judicial system as attempts were made in the last few days "to bring it to unrest".

"An effort was made to create ripples in this court; (a) serious and unwanted shadow of doubt has been created for no good reason by way of filing (a) wholly scandalous petition. It is against the settled proposition of (the) law," a three-judge bench of Justices R K Agrawal, Arun Mishra and A M Khanwilkar held.

The court said though the FIR lodged on September 19, 2017, had not named any judge of this court, the petitioner presumed "it is against the highest judicial functionaries".

The court also deprecated the attempt made by senior advocate Dushyant Dave to get Jaiswal's PIL listed and heard by the court number 2 which is presided over by the second senior-most judge, Justice J Chelameswar, on November 9, though a similar petition filed by the NGO, Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms, was listed for hearing before a bench led by Justice A K Sikri on November 10.

In a quick turn of events, the CJI-led Constitution bench, on November 10 itself, nullified the order passed by the court number 2 on November 9. The five-judge bench had then posted the NGO's plea for hearing after two weeks. Jaiswal's petition was, however, assigned to the three-judge bench.

In its 38-page judgement, pronounced by Justice Mishra, the court held that filing petitions day after day and asking the CJI not to exercise the power for the allocation of cases "was clearly an attempt at forum hunting and has to be deprecated in the strongest possible words".

"The entire scenario created by (the) filing of two successive petitions is really disturbing a lot. The entire judicial system has been unnecessarily brought into disrepute for no good cause whatsoever," the bench said.

The court also called "preposterous" a plea made by senior advocate Shanti Bhushan and advocate Prashant Bhushan to refer the matter, as per the decision of the court number 2, to a five-judge Constitution bench. Even the court number 2, in its order on November 9, did not exclude the CJI, it pointed out.

"It is (a) contempt to imply that the Chief Justice would assign it (PIL) to a bench which would not pass an order adverse to him. It is also a contempt to imply that the judges would be so amenable to comply that the bench, which heard the second writ petition, could not have heard it," the court said.

It continued: "Let good sense prevail over the legal fraternity and amends be made as a lot of uncalled-for damage has been made to the great institution in which (the) public reposes their faith. We deprecate the conduct of forum hunting that too involving (a) senior lawyer of this court. Such conduct tantamounts (sic) to wholly unethical, unwarranted and nothing but forum hunting."

The court, which refrained from issuing contempt proceedings against any counsel, said there was no reasonable basis to seek the recusal of Justice Khanwilkar saying that was tantamount "to contempt of court and an attempt at forum hunting".

"We find that it is another attempt to bring the system into disrepute, casting of unwarranted aspersions tantamounts to seriously jeopardising the independence of the judiciary," the bench said.

3-judge bench backs CJI Dipak Misra

* Former Orissa HC judge, I M Qudussi, along with others, was arrested. The CBI FIR said the accused sought huge gratification for getting a favourable order from the SC with regard to medical colleges.

* Advocate Kamini Jaiswal filed a PIL seeking SIT probe into the scam and prayed that the CJI should not hear the petition as he has 'conflict of interest'.

* Three-judge bench, led by Justice Arun Mishra, rejects the PIL, saying a lot of uncalled-for damage was made to the great institution in which the public reposes its faith.

* Casting unwarranted aspersions against Justice Khanwilkar is tantamount to seriously jeopardising the independence of the judiciary.

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