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NGO backed by Dhavan, Bhushan realises frivolous petition can be ‘costly’

The CJAR made two attempts since December 2017, once through a review petition and then a curative petition, to be spared the cost of Rs 25 lakh but failed

How seriously must one take one’s action of moving a court of law? Well, it’s serious enough to cost you Rs 25 lakh if the court finds your petition “frivolous”. The Committee for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR), an NGO, requested the Supreme Court on 4 January to rephrase an order to direct it to donate the cost amount for advocates’ welfare after braving for four years the stigma of being saddled with Rs 25 lakh “cost” for filing a “frivolous” PIL to “scandalise” the judiciary in the medical admission row.

A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court had on 14 November 2017 disposed of a PIL filed by advocate Kamini Jaiswal, a patron of the CJAR, who had raised the issue of alleged attempts to settle cases relating to the medical admission scam pending before the Supreme Court and had referred to the CBI’s FIR, naming a judge of the Orissa High Court. The CJAR had moved the application to challenge the order passed against it by a three-judge bench on 1 December 2017.

Dismissing the petition by the NGO for a judicial inquiry into the alleged medical college bribery scam involving the then sitting judge of the Allahabad High Court, the apex court had said at the time: “The writ petition is dismissed with cost of Rs 25 lakh to be deposited by the petitioner before the registry of this court within six weeks where after the said amount shall be transferred to Supreme Court Bar Association Advocates’ Welfare Fund.”

A fortnight after that, the same bench took up a similar petition filed by the CJAR that sought a direction to constitute an SIT headed by a retired CJI “to probe in the matter of alleged conspiracy and payment of bribes for procuring favourable order in a matter pending before this court”.

The Supreme Court had expressed its view on the plea of the NGO on 1 December 2017 thus:

The petition is not only wholly frivolous, but contemptuous, unwarranted, aims at scandalising the highest judicial system of the country, without any reasonable basis and filed in an irresponsible manner, that too by a body of persons professing to espouse the cause of accountability.

The NGO made two attempts in the intervening period, once through a review petition and then through a curative petition, to get out of trouble but failed. It deposited the amount ordered. Now, yesterday, CJAR counsel Rajeev Dhavan pleaded before a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar to substitute the word “cost” with “donation” to remove the stigma cast on the organisation, which he termed a platform. He said, “Penalty will impose a stigma on a large number of eminent people associated with the platform, including ex-Supreme Court judge PB Sawant and senior advocates. (The) reputation of many persons is at stake. We are seeking a small favour.”

Advocate Prashant Bhushan said the amount had been deposited with the Supreme Court and that could be transferred to the advocates’ welfare fund to put it to better use. Justice Khanwilkar said the matter would be put up before a three-judge bench.

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