Graft in judiciary: CJI bench annuls order
Amid high drama, it overrules order of two SC judges
New Delhi: High drama was witnessed in the Supreme Court on Friday, culminating in a five-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra annulling the five-judge bench constituted yesterday by a bench headed by Justice Jasti Chelameswar. The bench was scheduled to begin hearing from Monday an alleged bribery case involving a retired Orissa High Court judge and in which, according to the petitioners, names of some serving judges have cropped up.
The five-judge bench which heard the matter today — the original composition consisted of seven judges, out of which Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan recused themselves, reiterated that the CJI was the “Master of the Rolls”. It noted that the neither a twojudge, nor a three-judge bench could have ordered constitution of a specific bench.
Any judicial order passed by any other judge to set up a bench will be “ineffective and not binding,” the Constitution Bench, which also comprised Justices R K Agrawal, Arun Mishra, Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar, said.
The bench took exception to a two-judge bench passing an order constituting a fivejudge bench and clarified that allocation of matter by the CJI was a principle of law, judicial discipline and decorum. The CJI himself added that no other bench could assign matters unless allocated by him.
However, the packed courtroom witnessed sharp criticism and exchange of words between CJI Misra and advocate Prashant Bhushan, especially after Bhushan asked the CJI to recuse himself from the case and the CJI refusing to do so.
The CJI also told Bhushan, who was representing petitioners Campaign for Judicial Accountability and senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal that the accusations were “wild allegations” against him (CJI Misra) and could invite contempt. To this, Bhushan asked the CJI to issue contempt to him.
The hearing that last for almost an hour and a half was marked by chaos, with Bhushan finally storming out of courtroom.
During the hearing, members of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) led by its president RS Suri alleged “impropriety” on the part of the petitioners and their lawyers in mentioning the matter before another bench.
Suggesting that this was a way to get favourable orders by terrorism, members of the SCBA called for contempt proceedings.
The courtroom was a sea of confusion with members of the bar association speaking out of turn and clamouring to be heard. In the melee, Bhushan and Jaiswal were unable to get in a word edgewise and were forced to remain as mute spectators. Each time they made an attempt to say something, they were shouted down. The CJI constituted the five-judge bench on the heels of an order passed by Justice Sikri’s bench who had referred a matter pertaining to the medical college bribery case.