New Delhi, Dec. 13: A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir today declined to interfere with an order of another bench that no courts other than the Supreme Court should entertain any plea in the 2G scandal.
The bench, which also comprised Justices S.S. Nijjar and J. Chelameshwar, said the petitioners could approach the same bench, headed by Justice G.S. Singhvi, that had passed the order in April this year — before Kabir took over as the country’s top judge. They were hearing a batch of pleas against the directive.
“You withdraw the petition or we will dismiss it,” the court told senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, who appeared for the main petitioner, telecom baron Shahid Balwa.
Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, representing the CBI which is probing the scandal, opposed the plea arguing the Kabir-headed panel of judges could cannot hear the matter as it was being heard by another bench.
“There are 13 courts in the Supreme Court. Each court is autonomous. There is no provision in the Constitution under which one bench can set aside the order of another bench. If it happens, there will be total chaos in the country,” Venugopal said. He added the only remedy against the directive was to file a review petition, followed by a curative petition.
The 2G plea restrictions were placed mainly under Article 142 of the Constitution, which gives the apex court extraordinary powers to pass any order to deliver justice. The order had come two months after the court’s cancellation of 122 telecom licences.
However, Balwa and other petitioners have argued that the restriction raises important questions affecting “the constitutionally guaranteed rights of an accused”. “The petitioner is seeking an appropriate writ, order or direction declaring the orders are voidů violative of Article 14 (equality) and 21 (liberty) and provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.” The CrPC lays down the manner in which courts deal with a criminal matter.
As a result of the decision not to hear the plea, the chief justice’s bench declined to allow Prashant Bhushan and Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy to file impleadment applications — pleas in which they had argued that they should also be heard in the matter.
The main judgement in the case — the cancellation of the licences —had come on petitions filed by Swamy and Bhushan, who did so on behalf of his NGO, the Centre for Public Interest Litigation.
But today, Chief Justice Kabir asked Bhushan what his locus standi was and whether he had the authorisation from the NGO’s governing body.
“My lord. It is very strange that I am being asked to produce such authorisation. I am the general secretary of the organisation. An extrarordinary situation is arising in this court. The CPIL has been filing PIL for the past 20 years, why is it being asked now? Bhushan asked.
But the bench insisted that Bhushan must produce an authorisation to file the application. In the case of Swamy, too, the bench said he must file a proper application instead of merely making an oral submission.