NEW DELHI: Petitioner and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who had sought an SIT Investigation in the medical college bribery scam, termed the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Justice Dipak Misra, overriding J Chelameshwar's order as a 'black day' in the history of the Supreme Court.
"I feel that the behaviour of the CJI and the bench was not proper. We haven’t yet seen the order of the court. We’ll first see and then take the call on our future course of action," Bhushan told ANI.
"But this is certainly a black day in the history of the Supreme Court," he added.
The above-mentioned matter pertains to a medical college bribery scam against IM Quddusi (retired Orissa High Court judge) who was arrested among others, by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
On Thursday, a Supreme Court bench, consisting of Justices J Chelameshwar and Abdul Nazeer, referred the PIL, in the matter, to a five-judge bench, scheduled to conduct a hearing on Monday.
However, the case took an interesting turn today, when another Supreme Court bench comprising the current CJI, Dipak Misra, pronounced the order by Justice J Chelameswar null and void.
Bhushan, earlier in the day, tweeted that CJI Dipak Misra presided over a "hand-picked bench to override yesterday's order" by another top court bench.
Speaking to ANI, Bhushan went on to explain the ordeal of the day's proceedings.
"It was one of the most unfortunate days for the Supreme Court and the judiciary, where the credibility of the court has been greatly undermined and that too effectively by the CJI himself. The petition was seeking an independent SIT investigation into a CBI FIR effectively registered against the judges of SC, including the CJI, particularly the CJI. We were asking for an independent SIT investigation and that it should not be left with the CBI, which is a caged parrot under the Central Government," Bhushan said.
"A similar matter was heard the previous day in which it was observed that it is a very important case and can have serious ramifications and therefore, it should be heard by five seniormost judges of the Supreme Court on Monday. Today when our matter came to a different bench, the two judges first apparently said that it should be connected with the earlier case but then at 2:45 pm, I received a call from the registry that the CJI has constituted a seven-judge bench," he added.
Bhushan further said that thereafter, a five bench started the proceedings, but instead of hearing the matter on merits, it started asking all kinds of random lawyers present there about the propriety of court no. 2 hearing this matter the previous day.
"When I said that the CJI should not be hearing this matter because he has a conflict of interest as this FIR is effectively seeking an investigation into his role also, he ignored my point and once again started listening to random lawyers," he said, adding, "He did not allow me to say anything on the merits of the case."
Bhushan added that after trying for four-five times, he left the court.
"Thereafter, apparently he passed an order saying that he is the 'master of roles', and that he would only assign the benches," he concluded.
Bhushan had earlier tweeted, "Extraordinary proceedings in SC today in the case seeking SIT Investigation in medical college bribery case involving the CJI! 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 court proceedings were extraordinary in that the CJI was asking all kinds of lawyers who were not parties to say things against the order of Court 2, w/o hearing petitioner. He tried to justify his role in the medical college case & speak against 'impropriety' of Court 2," he had added.
The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR), a non-governmental organisation represented by Bhushan, had moved a petition seeking an independent court-monitored probe into the alleged scam. This petition was first posted before a bench headed by Justice Chalameswar on November 10.
The petition was later moved to a bench headed by Justice AK Sikri.
Advocate Kamini Jaiswal also moved a similar petition, which was mentioned before a two-judge bench headed by Justice Chelameswar for urgent hearing. This bench later referred the matter to a larger five-judge Constitution bench, ordered to have five seniormost judges of the Supreme Court.
On Friday, the petition filed by Prashant Bhushan, similar to Jaiswal's, came up before the bench of Justice Sikri.
Quddusi allegedly used his influence to help Uttar Pradesh-based Prasad Education Trust in "settling" a matter involving their plea to set up medical colleges pending in the Supreme Court.
The Trust owned one of the 46 medical colleges barred by the central government from admitting students. The accused were subsequently granted bail, but the same was not challenged by CBI.
Following granting of the bail, two parties (advocate Kamini Jaiswal and CJAR) filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking the constitution of an SIT to investigate the allegations, with a retired judge monitoring the same.