SC Overturns Two-Judge Bench Order on Judges Bribery Case

The larger bench on Friday took strong exception to the order passed by the two-judge bench and said no bench can take up a matter unless allocated by the CJI who “is the master of the court”.

Supreme Court. Credit: PTI

Supreme Court. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: A five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Friday overturned an order of a two-judge bench to set up a larger bench to hear a matter of allegations of judicial corruption, saying the Chief Justice of India was the “master of the court” and had the sole prerogative to allocate matters.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which assembled urgently at 3 PM, said neither a two-judge, nor a three-judge bench can direct the CJI to constitute a specific bench.

The bench, also comprising justices R K Agrawal, Arun Mishra, Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar, annulled Thursday’s order of the bench of justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer that directed the constitution of a bench of five senior-most judges of the apex court to hear the matter.

The larger bench on Friday took strong exception to the order passed by the two-judge bench and said no bench can take up a matter unless allocated by the CJI who “is the master of the court.”

The CJI-headed bench said allocation of matters by the CJI was the principle of law, judicial discipline and the decorum of the court.

The CJI also refused to gag the media from reporting the case, saying “I believe in freedom of speech, expression and the press.”

The CJI told advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for NGO ‘Campaign for Judicial Accountability’ and advocate Kamini Jaiswal, that he has leveled “wild allegations” against him (Justice Misra) in a matter in which CBI had lodged a corruption case.

The bench also made it clear that the matter will be allocated before an appropriate bench for hearing after two weeks.

Bhushan then stormed out of the packed courtroom, saying he was not being allowed to speak in the matter.

Earlier in the day, the matter was listed before a bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, which had referred it before the five-judge bench as ordered on Thursday by a bench headed by Justice Chelameswar.

  • Sudhansu Mohanty

    If recusal is the norm for any institution of a constitutional democracy to avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest and to loudly convey the sense of fairness, I guess for the judiciary – on whom blind trust and faith is reposed by its citizens who look up to it for its unimpeachable sense of fairness, impartiality and transparency – it is a sine qua non and the credo of its relevance. Like Caesar’s wife the perceived sense of judiciary’s fairness should be far above, even beyond, any question for the institution to inspire the respect and reverence they rightly deserve. How much this case will fortify that spirit will be tested in the days ahead. One wonders if this judgment shall pass the scrutiny of legal practitioners, judges and commentators in any modern constitutional democracy like the US, the UK, Australia and Canada. In a manner of speaking, perception after all is half the judgment!

    Alok Prasanna Kumar in an incisive piece in “The Print” titled “CJI’s action on bribery charge is SC’s biggest-ever crisis, and it comes from within” ( has aptly commented:

    “CJI has the power to decide who will hear a case. But he is still expected to exercise it fairly, especially when there is an obvious conflict of interest.

    “The Chief Justice of India, for the first time, has violated the most basic norm of any decision-making authority — that no one shall be a judge in his or her own case.

    “It’s a monumental farce. The brazenness with which the CJI has ridden roughshod over not only all norms of judicial propriety and judicial conduct, but also his own colleague, and in the process, has damaged the Supreme Court as an institution.”