SC dis­misses pe­ti­tion for SIT probe in bribery case

Terms con­duct of pe­ti­tion­ers ‘un­eth­i­cal and un­war­ranted’

The Hindu - - FRONT PAGE - Kr­ish­nadas Ra­jagopal

The Supreme Court on Tues­day dis­missed a pe­ti­tion filed by ad­vo­cate Kamini Jaiswal seek­ing a Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team probe in the med­i­cal col­lege bribery case as an ef­fort to “cre­ate rip­ples” within the apex court by throw­ing scan­dalous al­le­ga­tions at Chief Jus­tice of In­dia Di­pak Misra.

Not­ing that the iden­ti­cal pe­ti­tions filed by Cam­paign for Ju­di­cial Ac­count­abil­ity and Re­forms (CJAR) and Ms. Jaiswal “se­ri­ously jeop­ar­dised the in­de­pen­dence of the ju­di­ciary,” the three-judge Bench led by Jus­tice R.K. Agrawal held that the con­duct of the pe­ti­tion­ers in the past week were both “un­eth­i­cal and un­war­ranted” and amounted to forum-hunt­ing.

Jus­tice Arun Mishra, af­ter read­ing out ex­cerpts from the judg­ment, orally in­formed the court­room that no con­tempt ac­tion was con­tem­plated against Ms. Jaiswal and her friends. “Let us unite and work for the wel­fare of the great in­sti­tu­tion,” Jus­tice Mishra spoke for the Bench, which in­cluded Jus­tice A.M. Khan­wilkar.

‘Un­called-for dam­age’

“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 re­pose their faith,” the judg­ment said. Jus­tice Mishra said the mat­ter should not be ag­gra­vated any more. “We have said in the judg­ment that we are not above the law. How­ever high, we are not above the law. But ev­ery­thing should be as process,” he orally ob­served.

The court in­di­cated that it was lean­ing in favour of bring­ing a qui­etus to the is­sue, say­ing good­will should pre­vail.

“We still ex­pect and hope the mat­ter will stop at this,” Jus­tice Mishra said.

The 38-page judg­ment drew largely from past ver­dicts of the Supreme Court deal­ing with “scan­dalous al­le­ga­tions” against judges.

Though not di­rectly ac­cus­ing Ms. Jaiswal, Mr. Prashant Bhushan and oth­ers in­volved in the two pe­ti­tions of con­tempt of court, the judg­ment makes re­peated ref­er­ences to how past de­ci­sions had dealt with un­founded al­le­ga­tions against judges with an iron hand.

For one, the judg­ment said it was not left to the “whim of the lit­i­gant” to tell the CJI not to hear a case.

It ob­served that “this court has laid down that when im­pu­ta­tions are made against the Chief Jus­tice, it is the pre­rog­a­tive of the Chief Jus­tice to con­sti­tute the Benches and as­sign ju­di­cial business, and it would not hinge on the whim of the lit­i­gant.”

In fact, an al­le­ga­tion that the Chief Jus­tice can­not con­sti­tute Benches, where im­pu­ta­tions were made against him, only ag­gra­vates the con­tempt, the judg­ment said.

Judges are not re­spon­si­ble for “cor­ri­dor” ru­mours. Re­cusal of a judge can­not be sought in such in­stances on the ground of con­flict of in­ter­est. “No judge can be held re­spon­si­ble for what may [hap­pen] or has hap­pened in the cor­ri­dors, or ‘who pur­ports to sell whom.’”

It is en­tirely the judge’s pre­rog­a­tive to take cog­ni­sance un­der the Con­tempt of Court Act and pun­ish a “per­son who is un­scrupu­lously try­ing to in­flu­ence the de­ci­sion-mak­ing or in­dulging in mal­prac­tices,” the judg­ment said.

The fil­ing of suc­ces­sive pe­ti­tions by CJAR and Ms. Jaiswal and the prayer to keep the CJI from hear­ing these cases were clear at­tempts at forum-hunt­ing, it held. In this con­text, the ver­dict again re­ferred to a past judg­ment where con­tempt was drawn against an ad­vo­cate for “mud­sling­ing” at the Supreme Court in a “care­less man­ner” through “mean­ing­less and con­tra­dic­tory plead­ings, clumsy al­le­ga­tions.”

It rea­soned that Chief Jus­tice Misra’s Bench had de­cided the med­i­cal col­lege case in ques­tion on Septem­ber 18 be­fore the FIR was reg­is­tered on Septem­ber 19. If so, the case was not pend­ing be­fore the CJI Bench.

The judg­ment re­ferred to an un­suc­cess­ful ef­fort made by Ms. Jaiswal’s lawyers that Jus­tice Khan­wilkar should re­cuse from the three-judge Bench as he was part of the CJI Bench which de­cided the med­i­cal col­lege case on Septem­ber 18.

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