SC wonders how its two-judge bench usurped powers of CJI

11 November, 2017, 01:04 | Author: Ora Austin
  • A Supreme Court bench disposed of a case related to the delay in finalising the new procedure to appoint judges

"Needless to emphasis that no judge can take up a matter on its own unless allocated by the CJI as the CJI is master of the court", the bench said and annulled the decision of the two-judge bench, in the hearing which witnessed heated exchange of words between the judges and advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioners.

In September, the CBI had arrested retired Orissa High Court judge Ishrat Masroor Quddusi and five others, including the chairman of a private medical college in Lucknow, in connection with the medical admission scam case. "This despite having a direct conflict of interest".

"Hence, it becomes essential that this case is investigated under the supervision of a Special Investigation Team headed by a retired Chief Justice of this Hon'ble Court and that the investigation is not left to an agency fully controlled by the government i.e. the CBI which has lodged the FIR and now undertaking the investigation", the PIL demands.

Renowned Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Friday stormed out of a hearing in the apex court while yelling at the Chief Justice of India Justice Deepak Misra.

This has led to speculation on the differences between the Chief Justice and the second senior-most judge.

On Thursday, a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar heard a petiton moved by advocate Kamini Jaiswal, which sought an independent Special Investigation Team monitored by the court to investigate the alleged scam. Gaurav Bhatia of the top court's bar association said that the Chief Justice's "administrative powers" stand subverted if he is not involved in deciding a constitution bench. CJI presided over a hand-picked bench to override yesterday's order referring this case to top 5 judges.

To this, Justice Sikri said "I am not interested".

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It also said that unless the position about the CJI's powers "is clearly stated, there will be utter confusion" and affect the court's smooth functioning.

During the charged-up hearing, Suri also questioned the manner in which the petition was mentioned yesterday before a bench headed by Justice Chelameswar at 10.30 am and was taken up for hearing by the bench at 12.45 pm itself.

The order passed on Wednesday is contrary to one passed on October 27 by a two-judge bench which said "the issue can not linger on for an indefinite period".

The Chief Justice also rejected the suggestion that media be restrained from reporting the proceedings and that it be held in-camera. However, CJAR says that "during lunch the petitioners counsel was informed by the Registry that in the light of an order by the Chief Justice this case is assigned to another bench and therefore would be coming up on Friday not before Court 2 but before the other bench".

Justice Arun Mishra referred to Bhushan's argument that the CJI should recuse from hearing the case and said, "Mr Bhushan, your comment was not appropriate".

He said another similar plea was slated to come up for hearing before a bench headed by Justice A K Sikri today but Bhushan mentioned an identical plea yesterday and an order was passed for setting up of a five-judge bench to hear the case. Justice Chalameswar's order stating that the Constitution bench to deal with the cases should comprise of five senior-most judges was seen as a direction trespassing the authority of the Chief Justice, which was indirectly nullified.

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