India’s Supreme Court

Loose talk against the Chief Justice of India Dipak Mishra is damaging the credibility of the country’s top court, said the Supreme Court on Monday as it heard a case about alleged bribe-taking by senior judges.

The CBI, which is prosecuting the case, says that a medical college in Lucknow reportedly offered bribes to judges to reverse its blacklisting by the government.

The CBI’s complaint or FIR says a former Odisha High Court judge, who was arrested and then given bail last month, offered to help the medical college get a positive verdict in the Supreme Court.

The Chief Justice has been hearing a related case on the medical college; some lawyers have expressed concern about whether he’s keeping enough distance from the investigation on judicial corruption. Last week, they questioned the decision taken by a five-judge bench that included him which said that he alone has the right to allocate cases to judges.

But the Supreme Court’s rules clearly establish that the Chief Justice as “master of the roster” must decide which judges are assigned to different cases.

Justice Arun Mishra, among the three judges who heard the case on Monday, warned, “Everyone is doubting the credibility of the Supreme Court,” he said, adding, “allegations shouldn’t have been made against the Chief Justice of India as there is nothing (against him) in the FIR (or CBI’s complaint).”

NDTV has seen the FIR and it does not mention the Chief Justice.

Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, who was among the petitioners for Monday’s hearing, responded that “a wrong impression has been created that this petition is against the Chief Justice. The petition says that the probe may eventually involve the Chief Justice. We hope that the Chief Justice may not be involved in this.”

What he is asking, along with Kamini Jaiswal, is for the Supreme Court to create a Special Investigation Team to handle the allegations of judicial corruption because the CBI cannot be depended on for a fair inquiry and the agency is susceptible to being influenced by the government.

The three judges who heard the case said they will deliver their verdict today.

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