Justice S N Shukla, the Allahabad High Court judge who was indicted in February 2018 in a case of alleged corruption in medical college admissions, retired on Friday.
The medical college case led to an unsuccessful impeachment motion against then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra.
Justice Shukla, who was not allocated any judicial work since February 2018, was not accorded a retirement farewell by the High Court Bar. The Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow bench is closed for administrative and judicial work until July 19 for sanitisation work after six employees tested positive for Covid-19.
In 2018, then CJI Misra had constituted a three-member committee to look into allegations of corruption against Justice Shukla. The panel found substance in the allegations, prompting the CJI to write to Justice Shukla to either resign or take voluntary retirement. After Justice Shukla declined both options, all judicial work was withdrawn from him.
Although the government had then defended CJI Misra, no action was initiated against Justice Shukla. The only procedure as per the Constitution to remove a judge is via impeachment by Parliament.
The internal committee found that Justice Shukla allegedly allowed private medical colleges to admit students for the 2017-18 academic year – including at Prasad Education Trust in Lucknow – in violation of Supreme Court orders. When the Medical Council of India challenged the High Court order, the case involving Prasad Education Trust was heard by a bench led by CJI Misra.
In September 2017, days before the final hearing in Supreme Court, the CBI launched a preliminary investigation based on the arrest of a purported middleman in an alleged money laundering case. The FIR stated that Justice I M Quddusi, a retired judge of Orissa High Court and member of Prasad Trust, had allegedly engaged a middleman to get favourable court orders from the apex court by paying a bribe.
Lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Kamini Jaiswal moved the apex court on November 10, 2017, seeking a judicial probe into allegations that SC judges were allegedly bribed to get favourable orders in the Prasad Trust case, which was heard by then CJI Misra.
The lawyers argued that a CBI probe could damage independence of the judiciary.
The case was mentioned before a bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar (retired), who was then next only to the CJI in seniority. A bench of Justices Chelameswar and Abdul Nazeer referred the case to a larger bench to be heard later that day, but CJI Misra set up a different larger bench.
Eventually, another bench comprising Justices R K Agarwal, Arun Mishra and A M Khanwilkar dismissed the plea seeking a judicial probe, and reprimanded the petitioners..
Even as the impeachment motion was moved by 64 members of Rajya Sabha from seven opposition parties against CJI Misra, he ordered an inquiry against Justice Shukla.
Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had rejected the impeachment notice by Opposition MPs who had sought CJI Misra’s removal.
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