NEW DELHI: IT all started in November 2017, when Chief Justice Dipak Misra overrode a judicial order passed by Justice J Chelameswar’s in an alleged medical admission scam involving the judiciary. It opened a rift between judges, and a sense prevailed that all was not well in the top court. Justice Chelameswar’s order to constitute a five-judge bench was annulled and replaced with a three-judge bench, which didn't include any of the senior-most judges.
Passing an administrative order, the CJI pulled the PIL from Justice Chelameswar’s bench, which had sought SIT to probe allegations that former members of the higher judiciary took bribes to manipulate court orders in favour of medical colleges that had failed to get official registrations.
Justice Misra declared that the CJI is the “master of the roster”, having the exclusive power to decide which case will go to which judge in the apex court.
In the medical scam case, the three-judge bench of the apex court had imposed a fine of `25 lakh on Citizens for Judicial Accountability and Reforms, which had demanded a probe by SIT into the medical college bribery scandal in which former Orissa High Court judge I M Quddusi is being probed.
Another case cited by the four judges on Friday was related to a PIL seeking an independent investigation into the death of judge B H Loya, who was overseeing a case involving murder allegations against BJP president Amit Shah and the case was assigned by the CJI to a relatively junior member of the bench.
On Friday, the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra decided to hear the case despite repeated pleas by senior advocates Dushyant Dave and Indira Jaising—who highlighted that a similar petition was being heard by Bombay High Court but the bench said it would hear the case and slated the hearing for Monday.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan backed the four judges and said, “Truly unprecedented. Kudos to four senior-most judges of supreme court to apprise the people about the extraordinary abuse of ‘master of roster’ powers by CJI in selectively assigning politically sensitive cases to hand picked junior judges for desired outcome.”