SC refers plea on bribes taken in judges' name to Constitution bench

Saul Bowman
November 11, 2017

His second tweet had said, "The court proceedings were extraordinary in that the CJI was asking all kinds of lawyers who were not parties to say things against the order of Court 2, w/o hearing petitioner".

Hearing a matter relating to a CBI FIR into alleged bribes taken in the name of judges, the apex court asked CBI to keep in safe custody documents of an FIR in which an ex-Odisha High Court judge is also an accused.

The materials will be produced before the 5-judge Constitution Bench on Monday.

The activist advocate was also rebuked by Justice Arun Mishra, who observed that FIR can not be lodged against sitting judicial officer of lower courts, judges of the higher judiciary, the Vice President of India or the President of India because they have immunity.

The proceedings led to heated arguments between the bench and lawyers, some of whom wanted contempt proceedings initiated against the petitioners for sullying the image of the Supreme Court.

As Bhushan lost his cool in the initial stages of the hearing and levelled allegations against the CJI, Justice Arun Mishra told him that his "conduct was not proper".

The Justice Misra-headed bench said any order contrary to the 1998 judgement would be inactive by law and shall not be binding.

In its order, the bench reiterated the sole authority of the Chief Justice as the master of the judges roster, which means he alone had the right to decide on the forum of a bench.

It also said that unless the position about the CJI's powers "is clearly stated, there will be utter confusion" and affect the court's smooth functioning.

Referring to the FIR filed by the CBI in the matter, Bhushan said, "Whole conspiracy was to bribe the bench hearing the (medical college) matter".

The bench, however, on an oral request of Suri and Bhatia impleaded SCBA as party and tagged the matter with earlier petitions, which has been listed for hearing before a constitution bench of first five senior-most judges of the apex court on November 13.

He said the contents of the petition filed before it was per se contemptuous.

In September, the CBI had arrested retired Orissa High Court judge Ishrat Masroor Quddusi and five others, including the chairman of a private medical college in Lucknow, in connection with the medical admission scam case.

Referring to another prayer by petitioner-in-person R.P. Luthra, the bench on Wednesday said: "Having considered the entire facts and circumstances of the case and further taking note of the relief clause, we have no iota of doubt that the petitioner had sought primarily for mitigation of an individual grievance which the two-Judge bench had correctly declined to entertain".

He said there are serious apprehensions and therefore this matter should be taken up at 12.45 PM today.

The CJI also said he had set up the five-judge constitution bench as a two-judge bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, while hearing a separate plea with similar allegations of bribery earlier in the day, had said that the matter should be placed before the CJI for passing an appropriate order.

"These matters can not be heard on the judicial side", Misra said, dismissing a petition on which the order was passed. CJAR, in its petition says: "As it appears from the FIR lodged by the CBI, an attempt was being made to unduly influence the outcome of the petition which was pending before this Hon'ble Court".

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