Tuesday, December 05, 2017

No investigation of sitting judges in India? CJAR to challenge Supreme Court order on "corruption" in top achelons

By Our Representative
Well-known legal rights group, Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR), has declared it will challenge the Supreme Court decision to impose a fine of Rs 25 lakh, even as dismissing its petition seeking judicial probe into corruption at the higher layers of judiciary as "mala fide", intended to "defame" the Supreme Court.
In a statement, CJAR, which is led by top Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, has said that order, delivered by a bench consisting Justices RK Agarwal, A Mishra and AM Khanwilkar, "will not deter CJAR" and it will "challenge the order and fight it tooth and nail through every legal channel and remedy."
"We will be filing a review petition. This judgement is only going to strengthen the Campaign and energise us to carry forward our efforts and campaigns. We will also put forth our demand for an independent probe into the allegations of conspiracy and corruption through all available forums", it says.
"Strongly" disagreeing with the apex court order, CJAR says, the writ petition had sought "a fair and impartial investigation into the allegations of bribery of judges of the higher judiciary", pointing towards CBI investigation against Prasad Education Trust, especially the "criminal conspiracy" to pay large sums as bribes to "procure a judgement in favour of a medical college from the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court."
"As is widely known, the process for granting permission to private medical colleges has been steeped in corruption", averred CJAR, adding, "In this particular case, the Prasad Education Trust was seeking relief against the decision of the Medical Council of India (MCI) to deny medical college permission."
In fact, says CJAR, MCI had sought to "confiscate the caution money of the trust in view of the flagrant violations of the terms and conditions for operating a medical college", though adding, "The college was able to secure partial relief in the case."
According to CJAR, "An investigation by a government controlled agency like CBI into a case concerning the judges of the Supreme Court could seriously compromise the independence of the judiciary. In this case, there was particular concern as the matter of the medical college was being heard by a bench headed by the Chief Justice of India himself."
"Therefore", says CJAR, it "filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking that such a sensitive investigation should not be left in the hands of a government-controlled agency and should be undertaken by a Special Investigative Team headed by a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and monitored by the Supreme Court itself."
CJAR prayed before the court that the petition should be heard by judges other than those who had served on the bench hearing the matter of the medical college, requesting that the petition be dealt with by the five senior most judges of the Supreme Court, excluding the CJI, so that the monitoring of this investigation would be "robust and fair."
A related matter was filed by senior advocate, Kamini Jaiswal, which was referred by the second senior most Judge of the Supreme Court, to a Constitution Bench comprising the five senior most judges of the Court. However, the Chief Justice intervened "and dealt with the petitions on the administrative side as well as the judicial side", says CJAR.
Insisting that "justice must not merely be done but it must also be seen to be done", CJAR quotes a 1997 Code of Conduct for High Court and Supreme Court judges to say, "The behaviour and conduct of members of the higher judiciary must reaffirm the people’s faith in the impartiality of the judiciary... whether in official or personal capacity."
Claiming that the the action of the Chief Justice "in this case clearly violate this salutary Code of Conduct", CJAR says, "Contrary to the charge against the campaign that this was a mala fide petition intended to defame the judiciary, CJAR had approached the court with the intention to protect the independence, integrity and reputation of the Supreme Court and the judiciary in general."
It alleges, the "Chief Justice of India has reportedly denied permission to CBI to register an FIR against a sitting judge of the Allahabad High Court allegedly involved in this matter", raising the alarm that " the reported denial by the Chief Justice of India, and the judgement of the Supreme Court in the matter, has in effect ensured that there will be no investigation of sitting judges in this matter."

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