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The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) has called for an in-house inquiry procedure to be initiated against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, given the serious allegations of misconduct that have been brewing, particularly following the manner in which the CJI-led Bench handled the medical college bribery cases late last year.
A letter to this effect has been addressed to the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, barring CJI Misra – Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and AK Sikri.
Four primary charges against Justice Misra have been quoted as requiring immediate attention of an in-house committee of three or five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. A press conference was also held yesterday, calling attention to the concerns raised.
Four charges warranting In-house Inquiry
The first two charges, as per CJAR’s complaint, are regarding the manner in which the medical college bribery cases, stemming from two petitions – one by Kamini Jaiswal and another by CJAR – were handled by the CJI.
It has been emphasised that although the CJI Misra was involved in the said cases, he proceeded to deal with the cases on the administrative as well as the judicial side, in violation of the Code of Conduct of Judges and natural justice principles.
In connection with the same case, the letter has also questioned why the CJI had denied the CBI permission to investigate charges against Allahabad High Court judge Justice Narayan Shukla for his alleged connection with malpractices during the conduct of the medical college bribery case in the High Court.
The letter contends that this was despite virtually conclusive evidence brought forth by the CBI implicating Justice Shukla. Furthermore, whereas an in-house enquiry was initiated against Justice Shukla in another case for similar conduct, the CJI had refused to initiate investigation in the instant case without reason.
The third charge in CJAR’s letter is in connection to an administrative order passed by the CJI, which was directed to be annexed to orders passed in Kamini Jaiswal’s petition.
According to the letter, the CJI appears to have antedated an administrative note dated November 6, 2017, which amounts to serious act of forgery/fabrication.
The note in question was annexed to an order passed in the matter by a Bench headed by Justice Chelameswar on November 9, 2017. It has been alleged that the said administrative note may have been prepared between 12 pm and 2 pm on November 9 by the CJI and thereafter, antedated.
On the said date, Kamini Jaiswal’s petition was urgently mentioned and listed to be heard before Court 2 headed by Justice Chelameswar, while the CJI was hearing regular matters in Court 1. Around 12 pm however, the CJI had risen from his Bench without explanation, although later, he had attributed the same to a family matter.
The impugned note issued by the Registry had directed that urgent mentioning, as with the present case, had to be brought to the notice of the CJI.
The fourth charge against Misra J. is regarding the acquisition of certain land by him before his elevation to the Bench. The letter notes that the CJI had acquired the land on the basis of an affidavit that was later found to be false by the Additional District Magistrate (ADM).
However, despite the allotment being cancelled by the ADM in 1985, the land was only surrendered in 2012, a year after Justice Misra was elevated to the Supreme Court.
In-House Inquiry should be made by senior-most judges after the CJI
The letter notes that the In-House procedure, finalised in December 1999 in a Full Court meeting of the Supreme Court, was brought about for taking suitable remedial action against judges of the High Court and the Supreme Court for not following accepted values of judicial life.
The letter notes that although the in-house procedure is silent with respect to complaints against the Chief Justice himself,
“…it is obvious that complaints against the Chief Justice of India cannot be examined by the Chief Justice himself and therefore must be examined by the next judge in seniority or by a collegium of senior judges. This principle has been held by the Hon’ble court in several cases.”
In this regard, reliance has been placed on the cases of K Veeraswami v UOI, Additional District & Sessions Judge ‘X’ v High Court of MP and State of Punjab v Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar. It has been pointed out that a similar procedure is also recommended when it comes to dealing with complaints against the top officers of the Supreme Court in the United Kingdom.
In addition, the letter notes, the Collegium was also evolved on the principle that “the collective opinion of a Collegium of senior judges is much safer than the opinion of the Chief Justice alone.”
Therefore, CJAR has written that, it would be appropriate if the five senior most judges of the Hon’ble court inquire into this complaint. The letter states,
“…this complaint against the Chief Justice of India is being addressed to the five senior most judges of the Supreme Court after the Chief Justice of India for an inquiry into this complaint. The Chief Justice of India has apparently committed several acts of serious misconduct which should be inquired into be a committee of three/five judges of this court. It would be most appropriate if the five senior most judges of the Hon’ble court enquire into this complaint.”
It further notes,
“However, it is for this collegium of the five senior most judges to determine as to how this complaint should be dealt with. Merely because the in-house procedure does not explicitly prescribe a method for dealing with a complaint against the Chief Justice, [it] cannot mean that there can be no in-house inquiry on complaints against the Chief Justice. Such a procedure must be evolved and it would be best if it is evolved by the collective wisdom of the collegium of senior judges of this court.”
Inquiry imperative to preserve judicial integrity and independence
The letter has also made it a point to note that the charges detailed do not imply that the CJI is conclusively involved in any conspiracy. However, it has been strongly emphasised that the charges have to be investigated in the interest of protecting the institution.
The letter concludes by asserting,
“The above-mentioned matters have tarnished the reputation of the court and have brought the judiciary into disrepute. It is a matter which needs to be swiftly dealt with… The extraordinary nature of this case involving serious allegations of misconduct against the Chief Justice himself, in our respectful submission, requires an enquiry committee of 3 or 5 next senior most judges of the Supreme Court. The enquiry must be swiftly done so that the reputation of the judiciary is not damaged further and the integrity and independence of the judiciary remains intact.”
Four of the judges to whom the letter has been addressed, namely Justices Chelameswar, Gogoi, Lokur and Joseph, recently called a press conference, publicly acknowledging their disagreement with the manner in which the CJI was allotting important cases to certain benches.
Whereas there have been conflicting reports as to whether the apparent “crisis” in the Supreme Court has been resolved, as of now, it appears to be business as usual in the Supreme Court with no significant changes evident in the manner in which the benches are constituted.
However, other reports have now surfaced that the CJI has called meetings with the four judges to settle the differences raised.
Read Complaint by CJAR below.
With inputs from Chandan Goswami.