Coming straight to the key point, the Supreme Court on November 14 dismissed the petition filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal seeking a Special Investigation Team for a probe into the allegation of middlemen-judges nexus in the medical admission scam as an effort to “create ripples” and snubbed advocate Prashant Bhushan for bringing disrepute to judiciary by making false, scandalous and unsubstantiated allegations against Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra. This is really most shocking. It merits no reiteration that Chief Justice of India is the highest post for a Judge in the Supreme Court which is the highest court in the country and is revered and held in highest esteem by the people of India. It is just not in order to level scandalous allegations against CJI without producing any substantial and concrete evidence to prove the complicity of CJI in any scam.
To recapitulate, the case related to a Lucknow-based Prasad Education Trust (PET) run by BP Yadav and Palash Yadav, who were debarred by the Centre as late as on August 10, 2017 from admitting students to its medical course at Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences for the academic years 2017-18 and 2018-19. The college was also on the verge of losing its bank guarantee of Rs 2 crore. According to FIR filed by the CBI at the time when PET’s petition was pending in the Supreme Court, it got in touch with a retired Judge of Orissa High Court Justice (Retd) IM Quddusi who along with one lady Bhawana Pandey and a middleman Sudhir Giri advised the college to withdraw its writ petition from Apex Court. They in turn got in touch with an Odisha-based hawala operator Biswanath Agrawal, who claimed “very close contacts with senior relevant public functionaries” and sought a huge gratification for getting a favourable order from the Supreme Court. The CBI later arrested Agrawal with cash of Rs one crore received for the purpose.
Curiously enough, the CBI which arrested Justice Quddusi and Bhawna Pandey, later found that a conspiracy was hatched to withdraw the petition from Supreme Court and approach the Allahabad High Court. On , the Allahabad High Court reversed the Supreme Court order. The Medical Council of India then appealed on against this order to Supreme Court where PET submitted it will not take advantage of the High Court order. , a fresh petition was filed by Prakash Medical Institute before CJI Dipak Misra who passed an order on to restrain MCI from encashing the bank guarantee. Further, the Court allowed the MCI to conduct fresh inspection of the college to consider permission for admitting students for 2018-19.
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that the CBI made the seizure a day after a Supreme Court Bench headed by the CJI Dipak Misra on dismissed a petition filed by Prasad Education Trust seeking relief against the Government’s decision to debar them from admitting medical students for the next two years. The Supreme Court Bench deprecated the conduct of advocate Prashant Bhushan in no uncertain terms for unnecessarily dragging the name of the CJI Dipak Misra by casting aspersions on him without any proof. Undoubtedly, no one including myself has any legitimate right to cast aspersions on not just the CJI which is the highest august office but also on any other Judge at the drop of a hat without any substantive proof in hand because it severely tarnishes the reputation of Judges and this has a very adverse impact on the people’s unflinching faith in the judiciary which can never be good for a democratic country like India and it blemishes our country’s impeccable reputation at the international stage which cannot be allowed unless there are very strong and substantial grounds for doing so.
For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that the Apex Court held that the CBI FIR did not name any Judge of a High Court or the Supreme Court for receiving any bribe to fix the case in the Supreme Court. Moreover, the court said when the alleged bribe money was exchanged, the case was not pending with the Supreme Court Bench. Justice Arun Mishra while writing the judgment for the Supreme Court Bench minced absolutely no words in making it crystal clear that, “Any complaint against a Judge and investigation by the CBI if given publicity will have a far reaching effect on the Judge and the litigant public…the petition wrongly presupposes that investigation involves higher judiciary, i.e. this court’s functionaries are under the scanner…rightly FIR has not been registered against any sitting Judge. Otherwise, on unfounded allegations, any honest Judge to the core can be defamed, and reputation can be jeopardised. No Judge can be held responsible for what may, or has happened in the corridors, or for ‘whop purports to sell whom’.”
As it turned out, although the Supreme Court three-Judge Bench led by Justice RK Agrawal while noting that the identical petitions filed by Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) and Ms Kamini Jaiswal “seriously jeopardised the independence of the judiciary” termed the conduct of petitioners as “unethical, unwarranted, and amounting to forum hunting”. But at the same time it did not unleash the whip and spared the petitioners from facing contempt proceedings as the petitioner had stated that the petition does not intend to name any individual. 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.
For one, this judgment has sent a loud and clear message to one and all that no litigant can somehow dictate any CJI not to hear a particular case. The judgment said that 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.” The judgment further said that, “In fact, an allegation that the Chief Justice cannot constitute Benches, where imputations were made against him, only aggravates the contempt.”
Truly speaking, the verdict also said that, “The filing of successive petitions by CJAR and Ms Jaiswal and the prayer to keep the CJI from hearing these cases were clear attempt at forum-hunting. In this context, the judgment 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 Dipak Misra’s Bench had decided the medical college case in question on before the FIR was registered on . If so, the case was not pending before the CJI Bench. It referred to an unsuccessful attempt 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.
It must be brought out here that a three-Judge Bench headed by Justice RK Agrawal while dismissing a plea for SIT probe in an alleged case of bribery in the name of Judges, referred to a 1991 Constitution Bench judgment that held that registration of FIRs against sitting Judges of the higher judiciary was not permissible. Referring to the Constitution Bench verdict of 1991, the top court said it had observed that in order to ensure independence of judiciary, the apprehension that the executive being the largest litigant, it was likely to misuse the power to prosecute the Judges. It said there cannot be registration of FIR against the Judges of higher judiciary without consultation with the Chief Justice of India (CJI) and, in case there was allegation against the CJI, the decision has to be taken by the President in accordance with the procedure prescribed in the judgment.
It may be recalled here that Prashant Bhushan had even made an allegation that the CBI’s FIR “is squarely directed at the Chief Justice of India”. The CJI while addressing Bhushan said that, “You made wild allegations against me. You can afford to lose your temper, but we cannot lose our temper. That is the beauty of this system.” Later Bhushan tweeted: “Extraordinary proceedings in SC today in a case seeking SIT investigation in medical college bribery case involving the CBI! CJI presided over a hand picked bench to override yesterday’s order referring this case to top 5 Judges; This despite having a direct conflict of interest.” The CBI’s FIR alleges that a conspiracy was hatched to bribe Supreme Court Judges to influence the outcome of a medical college case. But what should not be lost sight of is that the CBI’s FIR did not name any particular Judge. If it was an open and shut case then why the Judges were not named?
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.