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Prashant Bhushan accuses CJI for ‘Bench Fixing’; says he should step down

It seems that lawyer -activist Prashant Bhushan has been having issues with the CJI after the dismissal of his CJAR petition seeking court monitored SIT Investigation in CBI FIR, alleging conspiracy, preparation & planning by medical college to bribe SC judges.

In an interview with The Week, Prashant Bhushan stated that the four Supreme Court judges who went public with their grievances have acted as ‘whistleblowers’. Taking the side of the 4 senior judges he remarked that they were extremely sober and respectable judges, and for them to go to the media means that the water must have risen above their noses.

The spat between Prashant Bhushan and CJI began when on 10th November 2017, a Supreme Court bench comprising of CJI, Dipak Misra, pronounced the order by Justice J Chelameswar null and void. Justices J Chelameshwar and Abdul Nazeer, had earlier referred the PIL filed by Prashant Bhushan, seeking a SIT Investigation in the medical college bribery scam, to a five-judge bench to be heard the next week.

During the proceeding on 10th November there was a raging courtroom debate between Advocate Prashant Bhushan and the CJI where he challenged Mr. Bhushan to read from the FIR the part which directly mentioned his involvement. When Mr. Bhushan read out a paragraph, Chief Justice Misra observed: “Mr. Bhushan, I am really sorry but now you are liable for contempt. But you are not worthy of even contempt.”

Prashant Bhushan however termed this over riding of the decision of Justice Chelameswar by the CJI as the “Black Day” in the history of Supreme Court.

This Court room war turned into a fierce battle after the judge’s conference held by the 4 senior most judges of the Supreme Court. On 16th January 2018, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, in a press conference stated that he has registered a complaint against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, in connection with the medical college scam and further he has demanded that an investigation be initiated to ascertain whether the CJI was involved in the scam.

He told the press conference that he has called for an inquiry against the chief justice, as the convener of the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR), to deal with “various allegations of misconduct.”

While giving the interview to The Week, Prashant Bhushan, on being asked whether the issues raised during the 4 judge conference have led to a crisis, replied that the judges had raised very serious issues, which in itself showed that the judiciary was in a crisis. He told the newspaper that the judges had already stated there was a great threat to democracy and that they did not want it to be said later that they sold their souls.

“It is true that a divided judiciary will be vulnerable. However, had the system not been in such a deep crisis already, the judges would not have revolted. There was already tremendous politicisation of the judiciary. Politically sensitive cases are being assigned to handpicked benches, with no senior judge on them, so that the desired outcomes are achieved.” Bhushan added.

Further Prashant Bhushan gave a very audacious and straight forward answer when being asked about the implications of the judge conference on the CJI. He commented, “His reputation and his integrity are a shambles. In the light of these developments, it is untenable for him to continue as chief justice. He should resign.”

He claimed that there was an urgent need for a transparent, fair and rational system for the assignment of cases. ‘The abuse of the power of the master of the roster [Misra] has to stop’, he said.

“The chief justice is clearly manipulating and misusing the judiciary in the interest of the government. The government is using him to get cases managed. For example, the case pertaining to the death of Judge B.H. Loya, or the Aadhaar case or the case challenging the appointment of Rakesh Asthana as CBI special director. The executive is blackmailing the chief justice through a CBI investigation into the alleged bribing of judges by medical colleges. The chief justice is clearly working under the government’s pressure.” Bhushan stated, tracing the real issue as the interference by the executive in judicial matters.

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