Lucknow Medical College bribe case: SC witnesses stormy scenes, CJI says he decides who hears which case

Nov 11:High drama and acrimonious exchanges were witnessed in the Supreme Court Friday when it struck down an order by a two-judge bench the previous day that a matter of alleged judicial corruption, involving a blacklisted Lucknow medical college, should be heard by a Constitution Bench comprising the five most senior judges of the apex court.
Ruling that the Chief Justice of India alone had the power to allocate work to judges in the Supreme Court and constitute benches, a five-judge Constitution Bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, cited propriety and unanimously overturned Thursday's decision by the bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer. Any order which runs contrary to the finding "cannot be binding", the Constitution Bench ruled.
The bench, which also included Justices R K Agrawal, Arun Mishra, Amitava Roy and A M Khanwilkar, cited a 1997 judgment which held that the Chief Justice of the High Court was the master of the court roster. The same principle, the judges said, would extend to the CJI on the functioning of the Supreme Court.
Taking exception to the order of the two-judge bench, the Constitution Bench, in its order, said: "Once the Chief Justice is stated to be the master of the roster, he alone has the prerogative to constitute benches. Needless to say, neither a two-judge bench nor a three-judge bench can allocate the matter to themselves or direct the composition for constitution of a bench. To elaborate, there cannot be any direction to the Chief Justice of India as to who shall be sitting on the bench or who shall take up the matter as that touches the composition of the bench. We reiterate such an order cannot be passed. It is not countenanced in law and not permissible."
Thursday's order came on a petition by NGO Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) which demanded an SIT probe into the alleged corruption case involving former Orissa High Court judge I M Quddusi. He was among six arrested on September 21 by the CBI which claimed they were involved in deals to try and secure favourable orders from courts, including Supreme Court, for the Lucknow-based Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences which had been placed on a government blacklist.
In its FIR, the CBI claimed that promoters of the medical college, one of 46 barred by the government from admitting students for two years, had approached Quddusi who had promised relief from courts, including Supreme Court, with bribes to influential people.
The five-judge Constitution Bench said the CJAR petition will be listed before an appropriate bench for hearing after two weeks.
The bench declined to gag the media from reporting the proceedings where there were heated exchanges, saying it stood for the freedom of speech and freedom of press. Agencies
Source: Agencies



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