The Supreme Court has been witness to various high-voltage internal battles lately, the flashpoint being the judges' bribery case where it was alleged that attempts were being made to bribe SC judges to get a favourable ruling in medical admission scam case involving retired Orissa High Court judge IM Quddusi.
The Supreme Court has been witness to various high-voltage internal battles lately, the flashpoint being the judges’ bribery case where it was alleged that attempts were being made to bribe SC judges to get a favourable ruling in medical admission scam case involving retired Orissa High Court judge IM Quddusi. The Supreme Court five-judge Constitution bench headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) had overturned an order of a two-judge bench led by justice J Chelameswar that directed setting up of a larger bench to hear the matter, saying CJI Dipak Misra was the “master of the court” and had the sole prerogative to allocate matters.
While passing an order effectively annulling the order passed by the Chelameswar’s bench, Misra had said that allocation of matters by the CJI was the principle of law, judicial discipline and the decorum of the court. The order had come a day after the two-judge bench led by Chelameswar, the senior-most judge after the CJI, had referred a petition filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal to a Constitution bench of the top five judges, including the CJI. Advocate Prashant Bhushan had argued that since there were allegations against the CJI, he should not be part of the bench hearing the matter. However, his attempts to address the court could not succeed. A frustrated Bhushan had angrily stormed out of the court amid commotion.
Another case worth mentioning is the RP Luthra vs Union of India. Luthra, a lawyer, had challenged the appointments made to the higher judiciary in the absence of the revised memorandum of procedure (MoP). The bench comprising justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit on October 27 last year had issued a notice to the Centre and directed the presence of attorney general KK Venugopal. It had found merit in the argument that there should be no further delay in finalisation of the MoP, currently in force, in the larger public interest. While the case was pending before the two judges, it got transferred to a three-judge bench led by the CJI, who on November 8 recalled the earlier October order saying that “these are not matters to be taken up on the judicial side like this”.
This recalling of the order is what the four justices Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph refer to in their letter. In the letter, the four criticised the three-judge SC bench’s method of functioning, stating, “Any issue with regard to the Memorandum of Procedure should be discussed in the Chief Justices’ Conference and by the full court. Such a matter of grave importance, if at all required to be taken on the judicial side, should be dealt with by none other than a Constitution Bench.”