NEW DELHI: The unprecedented tussle between top judges of the Supreme Court continued on Saturday with Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra overruling an order passed by Justice J Chelameshwar on Thursday to constitute a five-judge Constitution Bench to examine if a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe should be ordered to investigate alleged corruption in the higher judiciary.
The Chief Justice replaced the five-judge Bench with a new Bench comprising three judges. He also issued a circular late on Friday making it clear that henceforth, all lawyers must seek hearing of all new cases before the Chief Justice.
“It is hereby notified for the information of the Members of the Bar and the Parties appearing in person that henceforth oral mentioning, in respect of matters which have not already been assigned/listed before any other Bench, will be allowed only before the court presided over by Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India at 10.30 am,” the circular reads.
The circular implies that matters would have to be mentioned before the CJI’s Bench even when he is sitting at a Constitution Bench hearing.
Passing an administrative order, Justice Misra pulled out senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal’s PIL from Justice Chelameshwar’s Bench. The PIL demanded the setting up of an SIT to probe the allegations that senior judges took bribes to manipulate court orders in favour of medical colleges that had failed to get registrations.
The three-judge Bench, which would now hear the case on Monday, also comprises Justices R K Agrawal, Arun Mishra and A M Khanwilkar, who were also part of the five-judge Constitution Bench that declared on Friday that it was the CJI’s prerogative to decide which case would be assigned to which Bench. No other judge can decide to hear a case by himself, nor can he instruct the CJI to set up a particular Bench in the top court, the CJI said on Friday.
The new Bench includes neither Justice Chelameshwar nor the other senior-most judges of the apex court, which clearly implies that the tussle at the top continues.
Kamini Jaiswal’s PIL had also sought the CJI’s recusal from hearing the case as he is part of the Bench hearing a case relating to one of the medical colleges involved in the scam, which was investigated by the CBI.
A similar PIL with identical prayers came up on Friday before another Bench, which referred it to the Chief Justice, who within hours set up a five-judge Bench which declared that the Chief Justice will be the “master of the roster”.
It also annulled the order passed by Justice Chelameswar, holding that any such order shall be “ineffective.”