Medical College Admission Scam: SC Reserves Judgment On CJAR’s Plea For SIT Probe
The Supreme Court bench of Justice RK Agrawal, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice AM Khanwilkar on Monday reserved judgment on a writ petition filed by the NGO Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) seeking an SIT probe into the allegations of criminal conspiracy and illegal gratification of sitting Supreme Court judges to procure a favourable outcome in the Lucknow Medical College Admission scam. In a November 14 judgment, the apex court had dismissed an identical petition by advocate Kamini Jaiswal.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner CJAR, submitted before the bench, “In the November 14 judgment, the court had not dealt with the grave necessity for the constitution of an SIT. The present petition has been filed praying for the writ of mandamus to set up a SIT under the chairmanship of a retired Supreme Court judge to inquire into the allegations of criminal conspiracy and bribery and to direct the CBI to hand over to such SIT all recoveries in the investigation conducted thereby till date.”
Bhushan further contended that the FIR dated September 19, lodged against former Orissa High Court judge Justice IM.Quddusi, named 5 private persons and 7 other unknown public servants and private persons, which formed the basis of the earlier petition, was also disregarded by the Supreme Court in the judgment of November 14.
The bench retorted, “If you refer to paragraphs 7 and 8 of the judgment of this Court of November 14, you will see the contents of the FIR have been taken into consideration. In paragraph 22, we have observed that the FIR does not mention the name of any sitting Supreme Court judge and expressed skepticism as to how the petitioner assumed the same to be against the highest judicial functionaries. We have also noted that a FIR cannot be registered against a Supreme Court Justice except in consultation with the Chief Justice and against the Chief Justice except with the authority of the President of India.”
Bhushan further argued, “The said FIR reveals not merely a criminal conspiracy, but the entire planning and preparation to obtain a favourable judgment, where the money meant for the purpose of bribe had also been collected and almost been transferred to the middlemen by the owners of the medical college. I am not for a moment suggesting that any judge of the apex court would be guilty of accepting illegal gratification, but it is also a fact that the favourable judgment was sought to be procured at the behest of a bench of this court and obviously not the court masters.”
The counsel emphasised on the need for a SIT probe into the averments of the FIR on the ground that the CBI, not being an autonomous body outside the control of the executive, could not be deemed to conduct credible investigation. “If there is a black sheep in the judicial family, they must be punished. However, if the allegations in the FIR are baseless, then action needs to be taken against the informant. And such a sensitive investigation cannot be left at the disposal of the CBI, given the influence of the Union Government over it.”
Bhushan relied on the judgment of the top court in K Veeraswami vs Union of India [(1991) 3 SCC 655], in so much as it was held therein that the judges and judicial officers are not exempted from the application of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988 even while they hold office.
He requested the bench to “take a quarter step further ahead of the Veeraswami judgment” by allowing a Supreme Court-monitored SIT to conduct the inquiry in matters involving the Chief Justice, as against the President of India who, in turn, acts in consultation with other Supreme Court judges.
“Is CJAR a registered body? Why does the affidavit not provide that the body is being represented through its Secretary Cheryl D’souza? What is the basis for the averments in the present petition apart from the FIR,” inquired the bench.
When, in response, Bhushan requested the bench to take a decision keeping in consideration the issues of the independence and integrity of the judiciary and public confidence in the judiciary, the bench remarked, “We have already decided. We are only listening to you because you want to argue.”
Attorney General KK Venugopal also submitted that Bhushan was repeating the contentions of the writ petition which has been finally disposed of by the judgment of November 14. He further said, “It is highly disingenuous to say that the present petition has been instituted to protect the integrity of the judiciary. This FIR hurts the independence of the judiciary.”
The matter is listed for the pronouncement of final order and judgment on Friday.