5-judge bench to hear plea alleging bribery in the name of Supreme Court judges

A plea alleging bribery in the name of judges was on Thursday referred to a Constitution Bench comprising five senior most Supreme Court judges. According to the plea, bribes were being taken using the names of apex court judges promising to secure favourable settlement of a case.

The top court issued notice to the Centre and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the plea that has sought a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the case.

Terming it as “disturbing”, the bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer directed the CBI to keep in safe custody the documents and relevant materials with regard to the FIR lodged by it on September 19 in which a former Odisha High Court judge has also been named as an accused.

The CBI FIR has alleged that the ex-High court judge and others had hatched a conspiracy and demanded huge gratification assuring favourable settlement of a case relating to medical college admissions in the apex court.

The decision that the five senior-most judges would be part of the constitution bench assumes significance in the wake of senior advocate Dushyant Dave’s submission that the medical admission matter, the genesis of CBI FIR, was being heard by the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, and hence, he should not be involved with it either on the judicial or on the administrative side.

Here’s a look the sequence of events in the Supreme Court:

10.30am: Five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra resumes hearing in Court-1 on power tussle between Delhi government and Centre.

10.30 am: Senior advocate Dushyant Dave mentions case in Court-2 before a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar, on the bribery issue, seeks urgent hearing.

10.35 am: Justice Chelameswar lists the case for hearing at 12.45 pm.

12.05 pm: Constitution bench headed by CJI Dipak Misra rises.

12.55 pm: Amid hearing before Justice Chelameswar, the bench receives a note from Registry.

1.05 pm: Justice Chelameswar-headed bench issues notice to CBI and Centre and refers the matter to constitution bench comprising first five seniormost judges and annexes the notice from registry.

“Having regard to the totality of the circumstances, we deem it appropriate that this matter be heard by the constitution bench of the first five judges in the order of seniority of this court,” the court said in its order.

Dave, appearing for petitioner lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, referred to the CBI FIR on the basis of which Justice (Retd) Quddusi was arrested and subsequently granted bail.

He argued that the facts of the case as alleged by CBI were “disturbing”, as according to the probe agency, a conspiracy was hatched and huge illegal gratification demanded for procuring a favourable order in a matter relating to medical college admissions pending before the top court.

Asserting that the matter relates to the “integrity” of the highest judicial fora in the country, Dave told the bench that several incriminating documents were seized by CBI during investigation in the graft case and there was apprehension that these materials could be misused.

He sought the passage of an interim order to direct the CBI to hand over these documents, including the case diary, in a sealed cover to the registrar of the court.

(With agency inputs)