Supreme Court holds Jaiswal, CJAR lawyer’s efforts ‘contemptuous, unethical’

Variously describing the efforts and conduct of advocate Kamini Jaiswal and Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms’ lawyers as “forum-shopping, contemptuous, unethical, derogatory” in the medical college bribery case, a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped short of instituting contempt of court proceedings against them mindful of the “welfare of the great institution.”

“Let us unite and work for the welfare of the great institution,” a Bench of Justices R.K. Agrawal, Arun Mishra and A.M. Khanwilkar observed.

After a series of hearings, one of them before a Constitution Bench on Friday, the Supreme Court made it clear that it did not want to aggravate matters for the sake of the institution.

“We have observed that we are not above the law. However high, we are not above the law. But everything should be as process,” Justice Mishra, who pronounced the judgment for the Bench, told the assembled court after reading out excerpts from the verdict.

The court said the petitions triggered a turn of affairs which has damaged the institution.

“Unnecessary doubt was raised about the integrity of this great institution,” Justice Mishra read out from the judgment about the effect of the petitions.

The court witnessed Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, office bearers of the Supreme Court Bar Association and advocates Kamini Jaiswal and Prashant Bhushan.

Giving short points from the judgment, Justice Mishra held that the decision of the Constitution Bench on November 10 that only the CJI has the authority to constitute Benches in the Supreme Court is binding.

The judgment notes that the CBI’s FIR in the medical college case was not against any sitting judge. Besides, it quoted the K. Veeraswami judgment to specify that no FIR can be registered against a high court or Supreme Court judge without prior sanction from the President.

The court held that the filing of multiple petitions on the same issue and not informing Justice J. Chelameswar’s Bench that the earlier CJAR petition was already listed for hearing before another Bench was unethical.

It held that such “forum shopping” was contemptuous.

The Bench further deprecated a submission made by petitioners for the recusal of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar on the ground that the judge had been a part of the Bench which heard the medical college bribery case. The court held that such a demand amounted to contempt.

The court said the petitions were filed without proper fact-checks which amounted to events which were derogatory and contemptuous. However, the court leaned in favour of bringing a quietus to the issue, saying good will should prevail.

“We still expect and hope the matter will stop at this,” Justice Mishra spoke for the Bench, while dismissing Ms. Jaiswal’s petition.

The Constitution Bench had listed the petition filed by CJAR for hearing after two weeks.

Both petitions had sought a SIT investigation into a conspiracy to bribe Supreme Court judges for a favourable outcome in the case of the debarred private medical college. Ms. Jaiswal’s petition draws its facts from an FIR registered by the CBI in the case.

On November 9, a two-judge Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar had ordered a Constitution Bench of the “first five judges in the order of seniority” to convene on November 13 to hear Ms. Jaiswal’s plea. However, this order prompted Chief Justice Misra to convene a five-judge Constitution Bench on November 10. The Constitution Bench declared that no other Supreme Court judge except the CJI can order Benches to be constituted in the Supreme Court.

“The court is in a crisis,” Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal had agreed with Justice Mishra on Monday.