SC dismisses CJAR petition, imposes fine of Rs.25 lakh

On Friday (December 1st) the Supreme Court dismissed the petition filed by Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) which sought investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the alleged bribery case with regard to medical colleges compliance requirements by Medical Council of India (MCI).  A bench comprising of Justice R.K.Agrawal, Justice A.M.Khanwilkar and Justice Arun Mishra which had reserved its judgement on Monday (November 27th), also imposed a fine of Rs. 25 lakh on the petitioner.

This dismissal has come 2 weeks after the dismissal of the Kamini Jaiswal petition in the same matter, which had identical prayers as this. Both these petitions had arisen due to an FIR filed by the CBI alleging corruption surrounding an attempt to influence the outcome of a case with reference to medical colleges compliance requirements by Medical Council of India(MCI).

On November 8th, Advocate Prashant Bhushan mentioned this petition on behalf of petitioners CJAR in front of a Bench of Justice J. Chelameswar seeking listing of the matter. It was mentioned in before Justice Chelameswar since CJI Misra was heading a Constitution Bench in the Government of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India. The matter was thereafter, listed for Friday (November 10th).

Thereafter, on Thursday (November 9th) Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave mentioned a new petition filed by Kamini Jaiswal on the same issue with regard to medical colleges, before Justice J. Chelameswar. The petition contained allegations with regard to an FIR lodged by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in matters relating to criminal conspiracy and taking gratification by corrupt means to influence the outcome of a case in Court, indicating a nexus between hawala dealers and public functionaries including members of the judiciary. Justice Chelameswar agreed to hear the petition later in the afternoon. Both the petitions in the case had identical grounds and prayers.

Both the petitions sought constitution of a Special Investigation Team headed by a former Chief Justice of India to investigate into the matter. It stated that since the allegations were against the bench of the Chief Justice of India the matter should not be heard by a Bench presided by him or assigned by him in any administrative capacity.

On Friday (November 10th) the hearing for the CJAR petition came up before the bench comprising of Justice Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan. Justice Sikri remarked that he was upset that a second petition was filed, since it showed lack of confidence in his bench. Advocate Prashant Bhushan brought to the notice order passed in the Kamini Jaiswal issue and asked for the petition to be listed before Justice Chelameswar since the other petition was listed before him. He asked for the matter to be tagged with the Kamini Jaiswal petition. Justice Sikri, however, referred the matter to the CJI Dipak Misra for passing appropriate orders. Supreme Court Bar Association on their application was impleaded as parties in the matter.

Subsequently, in an unprecedented move, a five-judge bench was constituted to sit at 3p.m. It was mentioned, in an article by LiveLaw that the office bearers of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Advocate Prashant Bhushan who were parties to the petition were informed as late as 2.40p.m. of the sitting of this bench. There was also confusion regarding the number of judges on the bench. Initially, a seven-judge bench was constituted headed by CJI Misra and comprising of Justices R.K. Agrawal, Arun Mishra, Amitava Roy, A.M. Khanwilkar, A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhushan. However, Justices Sikri and Bhushan recused themselves from the matter, resulting in a five-judge bench hearing the matter. It was to be noted by all that neither Justice Chelameswar, nor Justice Nazeer who had passed the previous order was made part of this bench.

In a heated discussion between the bar and the bench, it was suggested by the Advocate Prashant Bhushan that since the FIR was against the bench of the CJI he must recuse himself from deciding the matter. This was not taken favourably. Advocates Prashant Bhushan and Kamini Jaiswal found themselves outnumbered by lawyers belonging to the SCBA who had flooded the courtroom, urging the bench to file contempt charges against them. Ultimately, petitioners not receiving a chance to be heard amidst the chaos that broke out, Advocate Prashant Bhushan got up and walked out of the courtroom.

In the order passed by the five-judge bench, it was asserted that the CJI is master of the roster, and no judge can take up a matter on his own, unless allocated by the CJI.

On Tuesday (November 14th) a three-judge bench comprising of Justice R.K. Agrawal, A.K. Mishra and A.M.Khanwilkar pronounced its judgement in the petition filed by Kamini Jaiswal regarding the prayer for investigation in the matter by a SIT. The court indicated that two identical petitions with identical content had been filed by CJAR and Kamini Jaiswal before two separate benches. It condemned the petitioners for forum hunting, i.e. trying to get their petition heard by a bench that is likely to produce a favourable order.