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A statement from Justice A. P. Shah, Justice G. S. Singhvi, Wajahat Habibullah, Aruna Roy, Shailesh Gandhi-
We are shocked at the way the Supreme Court has dismissed the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms petition demanding an independent probe into allegations of corruption in the higher judiciary in the case of a medical college and a CBI FIR in this matter. Rather than taking note of the serious allegations and taking steps to restore the credibility of the judiciary, the Supreme Court has imposed costs of Rs. 25 lakh on the petitioner organisation.
To briefly recap the facts: The CBI registered a FIR in the case of Prasad Education Trust based on evidence gathered, of a criminal conspiracy including preparation and planning to pay large sums as bribes to procure a judgement in favour of the medical college, from the Allahabad High Court and the Supreme Court. As is widely known, the process for granting permission to private medical colleges has been steeped in corruption. In this particular case, the Prasad Education Trust was seeking relief against the decision of the Medical Council of India (MCI) to deny their medical college permission to operate and the decision of the MCI to confiscate the caution money of the trust in view of the flagrant violations of the terms and conditions for operating a medical college. The college was able to secure partial relief in the case.
CJAR had petitioned the Supreme Court with the plea that as the particular case involved allegations of conspiracy involving judges of the Supreme Court, the matter should be investigated by an independent SIT headed by a retired Chief Justice. An investigation by a government controlled agency like the CBI into a case concerning the Judges of the Supreme Court could seriously compromise the independence of the judiciary.
As the matter of the medical college was being heard by a bench headed by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, CJAR had requested that the petition not be heard by the CJI but by the 5 senior most judges, excluding the CBI. This would be also be in keeping with the fundamental principle that no one should be a judge in their own case. However, the CJI dealt with the petition on the administrative and the judicial side.
The approach of the Supreme Court in the matter has been deeply concerning. Rather than taking steps to investigate the matter and uphold citizens trust in the judiciary, the focus of the court appears to be to dismiss any form of questioning in matters of alleged wrong doing and corruption. The court’s observations that the petition is “wholly frivolous…contemptuous, unwarranted, aims at scandalizing the highest judicial system of the country,” is evidence of this misplaced priority. The petitioners had a reasonable basis in terms of the facts recorded in FIR registered regarding the alleged conspiracy to pay bribes to secure favourable judgments.
We hold the judiciary in the highest regard but are constrained to state that the approach of the Supreme Court in this matter has left us extremely disappointed. There is a pressing need for the judiciary to play its role as the guardian of peoples’ constitutional rights against executive and legislative excesses. We believe that a robust and credible system for investigating complaints against judges and holding them accountable for their misconduct and corruption must be put in place. The demand and concern for transparent and accountable functioning of the judiciary is not just that of CJAR but of all Indians.
We believe that the people of this country are the real stakeholders in the institution of the Judiciary and in the judicial system and therefore, must come together to protect this important pillar of democracy. By this statement we ourselves join in this critical campaign and support CJAR to carry forward its work.
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