New Delhi: Odisha high court’s former judge Ishrat Masroor Quddusi bribery case has been referred to a five-member constitution bench by a division bench of the supreme court. The case will come up for bearing before the constitution bench on November 13, 2017.
“Having regard to the totality of the circumstances, we deem it appropriate that this matter be heard by the constitution bench of the first five judges in the order of seniority of this court,” the court said in its order while describing the allegations made in the CBI FIR “disturbing.”
The plea claiming that alleged bribes were being taken using the names of apex court judges to secure favourbale settlement of a case relating to medical admission in a Lakhnow based medical college.
The division bench comprising of justices JJ Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer issued notices to the Centre and the CBI on the plea seeking setting up of a special investigation team (SIT), to be headed by a retired Chief Justice of India, to probe the matter.
Importantly, senior advocate Dushyant Dave has sumitted that the medical admission matter, the genesis of CBI Fir, was being heard by the chief justice Dipak Mishra, and hence, he should not be involved with it either on the judicial or on administrative side.
Dave said the medical admission matter, on which the case was lodged by the CBI, was being heard in the apex court by a bench headed by chief justice Misra and hence the CJI should not be a part of the constitution bench.
The bench was, however, non-committal on this submission.
Dave, appearing for petitioner lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, referred to the CBI FIR on the basis of which Justice (Retd) Quddusi was arrested and subsequently granted bail.
He argued that the facts of the case as alleged by CBI were “disturbing”, as according to the probe agency, a conspiracy was hatched and huge illegal gratification demanded for procuring a favourable order in a matter relating to medical college admissions pending before the top court.
Asserting that the matter relates to the “integrity” of the highest judicial fora in the country, Dave told the bench that several incriminating documents were seized by CBI during investigation in the graft case and there was apprehension that these materials could be misused.
Accepting the plea of the lawyer the bench has directed the CBI to produce the entire material collected by it in the course of investigation of the crime in a sealed cover before the constitution bench on November 13.
He said Quddusi, along with some other accused, was arrested in connection with the case and granted bail but the CBI has not appealed against the order enlarging him on bail.
Dave also said that besides the six accused named in the FIR, CBI has also mentioned other unknown public servants and private persons alleging they had demanded huge gratification to induce public functionaries by corrupt and illegal means.
He claimed that the CBI had allegedly seized Rs two crore cash from an alleged aide of the retired judge and the money was to be given to a hawala operator.
“My first concern is that, has the CBI deliberately filed a false case so as to discredit and pressurise this great institution or is there something more to it? This needs a thorough and detailed investigation and truth needs to come out. I pray to the almighty that allegations levelled against this great institution are false,” the senior lawyer said.
“People are arrested. They get bail in next 48 hours and then you (CBI) forget about it,” he said.
During the hearing, an officer of the apex court registry was spotted in the court room by justice Chelameswar who asked him about the purpose of his visit.
The registry official handed to the bench a photocopy of a note purportedly issued by the CJI’s office which was taken on record by the bench as annexure of its order.
“At the same time, we are also duty bound to place the developments that when the hearing of the matter was in progress, the officer of the Registry placed a xerox copy of the proceedings purportedly issued by the CJI, a copy of which is annexed to this order,” it noted.
Quddusi, who had also served as a judge in Chhattisgarh High Court, was arrested along with Lucknow-based Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences’ chairman B P Yadav, his son Palash Yadav and three others, for allegedly trying to settle a matter relating to a medical college barred from admitting new students.