SC dismisses petition for SIT probe in bribery case
Terms conduct of petitioners ‘unethical and unwarranted’
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.
“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.