In a dramatic set of developments in the judges’ bribery case, Chief Justice of India Deepak Mishra has overturned the order of setting up of five Judges Bench saying that CJI has a sole prerogative of setting up a bench.
The order was earlier passed by a bench of two judges comprising J Chelameswar, the senior most Judge after CJI and S Abdul Nazeer to hear a case of alleged bribery of judges in which a retired judge of Orissa High Court, Ishrat Masroor Quddusi is an accused. As per the reports, the petition filed by an NGO and an advocate had claimed that there were allegations against CJI Misra.
Overturning the earlier order of Chelameswar Bench, CJI ordered to set up a five judges Bench headed by him only. In a fast-paced event, the new bench assembled at 3 PM on Friday and commenced a hearing on the question as to who can direct setting up of a Bench of specific judges to hear a particular matter.
“There can not be a command or an order directing the CJI to constitute a Bench of specific strength. Needless to emphasize that no judge can take up a matter on its own unless allocated by the CJI as he is the master of the court” the bench said.
Prashant Bhushan, Senior Supreme Court lawyer while appearing for the petitioners in the hearing asked the CJI to recuse himself from hearing the matter as his name had allegedly figured in CBI’s FIR. However, the demand was not headed by the Bench.
It is to be noted that the bribery case, being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation, involve 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.
It would be interesting to see what form this tussle between the senior-most Judges of the apex court would take as the CJI heading a Bench for hearing a case in which he himself faces graft allegation would go against the principles of natural justice.