Law

CJAR Says Will Challenge SC’s Imposition of Exemplary Costs, Dismissal of Plea to Probe Bribery Case

The organisation insists the intent was not to defame but to protect the independence and integrity of the apex court and the judiciary in general.

Prashant Bhushan of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms and Supreme Court of India. Credit: YouTube/PTI

Prashant Bhushan of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms and Supreme Court of India. Credit: YouTube/PTI

New Delhi: The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) has expressed its disagreement with Supreme Court verdict dismissing its writ petition for “fair and impartial investigation” into the ongoing medical college bribery case and said that it would soon be filing a review petition in the matter.

“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has held that approaching the court to seek a court monitored investigation into serious charges of conspiracy, preparation and planning to bribe the Judges of the Supreme Court in a case before the court, is an attempt to defame the court,” the organisation said in a statement. It further held that the apex court’s “unprecedented order imposing costs of Rs 25 lakh on CJAR is a case of “costs in terrorem” in an attempt to intimidate the campaign into not taking up cases of judicial misconduct and corruption and deter it from demanding accountability of the judiciary.”

Recalling the “facts” of the case, the organisation said the “Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered an FIR in the case of Prasad Education Trust based on evidence gathered, of a criminal conspiracy including preparation and planning to pay large sums as bribes to procure a judgment in favour of the medical college, from the Allahabad high court and the Supreme Court.”

Stating that “the process for granting permission to private medical colleges has been steeped in corruption,” CJAR said, “in this particular case, the Prasad Education Trust was seeking relief against the decision of the MCI (Medical Council of India) to deny their medical college permission to operate and the decision of the MCI to confiscate the caution money of the trust in view of the flagrant violations of the terms and conditions for operating a medical college. The college was able to secure partial relief in the case.”

Reasons behind filing the petition

On the reasons behind its filing the case, CJAR said: “An investigation by a government controlled agency like the CBI into a case concerning the Judges of the Supreme Court could seriously compromise the independence of the judiciary. In this case, there was a particular concern as the matter of the medical college was being heard by a bench headed by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India himself. Therefore, CJAR 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.”

The campaign recalled how it had urged that the petition be heard by judges other than those who had served on the bench hearing the matter of the medical college, and requested that the petition be dealt with by the five seniormost judges of the Supreme Court, excluding the CJI, so that the monitoring of this investigation would be robust and fair, and to ensure that there was no compromise in the integrity of the investigation. It said this was also “in keeping with the fundamental principle that no one should be a judge in their own case.”

It noted that a related matter was filed by 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 apex court. However, the Chief Justice of India intervened and dealt with the petitions on the administrative side as well as the judicial side.

The CJAR said that the actions of the CJI in this case violated the code of conduct formulated in a Conference of all the Chief Justices in the country in 1997 which has been laid down in the ‘Restatement of Values of Judicial Life.’  It has been noted in the very first code that “justice must not merely be done but it must also be seen to be done.” The CJAR said in this case the actions of the CJI “clearly violate this salutary Code of Conduct” which had also provided that “the behaviour and conduct of members of the higher judiciary must reaffirm the people’s faith in the impartiality of the judiciary. Accordingly any act of the judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court, whether in official or personal capacity, which erodes the credibility of this perception has to be avoided.”

‘Intention was to protect the independence, integrity and reputation of the Supreme Court’

The bench that on December 1 dismissed CJAR’s petition comprised Justice R.K. Agarwal, Justice A. Mishra and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar. The organisation said that since Justice Khanwilkar was also on the bench which heard the medical college case, “we believe that he should have recused himself from this bench.”

Denying the charge of “mala fide petition intended to defame the judiciary,” CJAR said it had approached the court with the intention to protect the independence, integrity and reputation of the Supreme Court and the judiciary in general. “CJAR was not making any allegations. It was only seeking a court-monitored independent investigation into the issues recorded in the FIR filed by the CBI.” It regretted that its move was seen as an “attempt to defame the court”.

Divergence between court view and FIR

CJAR further said that “the court has also said that this FIR does not involve any judges. We believe that such a statement cannot be made when the FIR clearly states that there was a conspiracy to procure a favourable judgment from the Supreme Court by paying large bribes. Obviously, bribes to procure a favourable judgment from the Supreme Court cannot be paid to any other officials except to the judges themselves. Only an independent investigation could have cleared this allegation.”

The organisation added that it has also come to light that the CJI had reportedly denied permission to CBI to register an FIR against a sitting judge of the Allahabad high court allegedly involved in this matter. “The reported denial by the Hon’ble 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,” it said.

‘Court action has reduced esteem of the judiciary’ 

The campaign said the refusal of the court to allow an independent probe into the allegations of corruption (as recorded in the CBI’s FIR) and its conduct in this case,has “itself brought down the esteem of the judiciary in the public’s eyes”.

CJAR, however, insisted that the order of the Supreme Court and its decision to impose costs of Rs 25 lakh will not deter it. “We will challenge the order and fight it tooth and nail through every legal channel and remedy. In the coming few days, we will be filing a review petition” adding that “the actions of the Supreme Court in this case will now be judged by the people’s court which is the ultimate court in the country”.