The Supreme Court has issued notice to the Centre and CBI on a petition seeking SIT probe into allegations of attempted judge-fixing in a medical colleges racket. The allegations include an attempt to collect bribes to supposedly fix a matter which was being heard by a three-judge bench led by the Chief Justice of India.
The first puisne judge, Justice Chelameswar has referred it to a five-judge (constitution) bench of the five senior most judges of the Supreme Court apart from the Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Misra, who had been hearing the matter which is under a cloud. The five senior most judges after the CJI are Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur, Kurian Joseph and AK Sikri.
The petition asks for a special investigation team to be formed to probe into allegations of attempts to bribe Supreme Court judges to allow the registration of medical colleges.
Justice Chelameswar reportedly said that it was a matter about fixing Supreme Court judges — a charge both sensitive and serious which should not be permitted by the centre and CBI from arm twisting the judiciary.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, who appeared for the petitioner, also noted that the FIR had been lodged by the CBI and it was important to probe if it had been done to taint the judiciary or if there were something deeper.
Early on Thursday, there was high drama in the apex court when Dave mentioned the petition, which has been filed by lawyer Kamini Jaiswal. Dave mentioned it before a bench of Justice Chelameswar and asked that it be looked into with urgency.
He reportedly said in court that the earlier Kalikho Pul had been giving a decent burial hinting that this petition should not meet with the same fate. The comment was a reference to the alleged suicide note of a former Arunachal Pradesh CM which was not probed.
Justice Chelameswar said it was a serious issue and referred it for hearing at 12:45 PM. Shortly afterwards, the CJI, who was part of an in-session constitutional bench, rose midway for a meeting.
Just before lunch, Justice Chelameswar heard the matter again and posted it for hearing on Monday (November 13). The bench issued notices to the CBI and centre and asked the CBI to file all investigation details and documents in a sealed cover with the Supreme Court.
Dave pointed out that the medical college registrations issue was being heard by the CJI and he could not be part of the bench. Justice Chelameswar said it would be heard by a bench of the five senior most judges.
The centre had earlier de-registered 46 medical colleges for substandard facilities. Custodians of the Prasad Education Trust in Uttar Pradesh approached the Supreme Court for relief after they were debarred in August 2017 from admitting students for academic years 2017-18 and 2018-19.
In the meantime, a Supreme Court bench comprising the CJI, Justice Khanwilkar and Justice Amitava Roy were hearing the matter, stayed the Medical Council of India’s notification and allowed five medical colleges to admit students.
The CBI FIR alleges that they then approached former HC judge, Justice (retd) IM Quddusi, to supposedly fix the matter. First, they approached (allegedly on the advice of Justice Quddusi) the Allahabad HC, where they got a favourable order.
After that Prasad Trust’s functionaries approached the Supreme Court and Justice Quddusi allegedly introduced them to Biswanath Agrawal, a resident of Bhubaneswar, Odisha, who claimed he was close to “senior public officials” and would “settle the matter in the apex court”.
The CBI had lodged this FIR on September 19. The next day, they made an alleged blooper and raided the former Odisha residence of Justice Quddusi, without knowing that it was occupied by a sitting Odisha HC judge, Justice Dash. The Odisha HC bar had protested this matter and the CBI later apologised for the mistake.
On September 21, the CBI arrested the former judge on allegations of hatching a conspiracy to bribe public officials, in this case, Supreme Court judges.
Justice (retd) Quddusi had earlier been in the news for holding an open court in a railway station. He had held contempt proceedings against the station manager for not complying with his whims.
Dave’s comment on the Pul suicide note did not go amiss. Pul had made allegations against several people that they would fix the constitutional case on his behalf. The note supposedly indicated relatives of sitting Supreme Court judges. The eventual judgement had not been in Pul's favour and he committed suicide leaving a note that raised many questions. When it had been put up before then CJI, Justice KS Khehar, for administrative orders, he transferred it to a judicial bench and declined an investigation.