The Supreme Court on Tuesday said its three-judge bench will consider an NGO’s prayer to treat as a donation the cost of Rs 25 lakh imposed by the apex court while rejecting a plea seeking an SIT probe into allegations of bribery in a purported medical college scam.
On December 1, 2017, the apex court dismissed a plea filed by the Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) terming it “contemptuous” and asked it to deposit Rs 25 lakh with the registry in six weeks. It had said the amount shall be transferred to Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Advocates’ Welfare Fund.
On Tuesday, a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar said the December 2017 order was passed by a three-judge bench and it would be appropriate that the prayer made by CJAR is also considered by a three-judge bench.
“As regards prayer clause C, as the original order dated December 1, 2017 was passed by a bench of three-judges combination, post this application for consideration of that prayer before a three-judge bench,” the bench said. Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, appearing for CJAR, told the top court that this body is actually a platform with retired judges, senior advocates and others and a penalty would impose “some kind of stigma” on several persons.
“We have no problem in where the money goes, nor do we want the money back,” he said, adding that they are not at all on the merits of the matter.
He said the applicant is only requesting that the amount be treated as a donation and not penalty. Attorney General K K Venugopal said the applicant feels that cost is in the nature of a penalty and therefore wants that the amount already been deposited, be treated as a donation.
“We, the members of the Supreme Court Bar Association, would be very happy to receive that amount and therefore, I personally have no objection to the amount being treated as a donation,” Venugopal said.
The bench said there was already a direction in the 2017 order that the amount be transferred to the SCBA Advocates’ Welfare Fund.
It said one of the prayers made by the applicant that the amount be transferred to the SCBA can’t be taken forward as the December 2017 order directs transfer of amount to the SCBA Advocates’ Welfare Fund and not to the SCBA. The bench directed the apex court registry to transfer the amount in consonance with the direction issued by the court in the 2017 order.
The CJAR had earlier told the top court that it had deposited Rs 25 lakh with its registry. The apex court had dismissed the review and the curative pleas of CJAR in the case.
The petitioner had claimed that allegations of bribery were levelled for securing settlement of cases relating to medical colleges in which a retired judge of the Orissa High Court was also an accused.