Bhushan’s plea for Justice Khehar to recuse himself sheer contempt: SC

New Delhi, Dec 16 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday described as “sheer contempt” the plea by NGO Common Cause’ counsel Prashant Bhushan urging the bench headed by Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar not to hear the plea alleging pay-offs to a high constitutional functionary as the file for his elevation as the Chief Justice of India was pending with the Prime Miister’s Office.

“We can’t be held at ransom. It is a sheer contempt. We can’t conduct our duties. You doubt constitutional functionaries,” said Justice Arun Mishra as Bhushan told the bench with Justice Khehar as a presiding judge that while he had “no doubt about your ability to be objective”, he had as “an officer of this court, this unpleasant duty to perform” to refer to the file.

Not happy over the submission by Bhushan, Justice Khehar said: “You are not (just) now the officer of the court. It is very unfair to tell us (this now). You could have said (this) in the first, second hearing of the matter.”

An undeterred Bhushan told the bench that despite his complete confidence in the court, all he was saying was that many people in the country would get a wrong impression. He said he was not asking Justice Khehar to recuse himself but just that hearing on the plea may be adjourned till first week of January.

Taking umbrage to the submission by Bhushan which came both as surprise and shock, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi described it as the “cheapest tactics”.

“It was a cheap tactic, it was the cheapest tactics,” he told the bench, asking it to post the matter in the first or the second week of January.

After a pause, the bench gave two options. Two things are possible — that the matter could be heard at 3.30 p.m. while asking Chief Justice T.S. Thakur to constitute a new bench to hear the matter or post the hearing to January.

Telling the court that he would go for the second option, Rohatgi urged the bench to post the matter on January 11.

Bhushan told the court that in the meantime, he would file a detailed submission in support of his allegation of alleged pay-off by a corporate entity to a high constitutional functionary when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Gujarat Chief Minister.

At the outset of the hearing, Bhushan told the court that as directed by it, he has burnt the midnight oil to prepare his submission but yet he could not complete it and urged the court to postpone the hearing for next month when the court reopens after winter break.

Telling Bhushan that he was in no tearing hurry and could have completed his submissions before approaching the court, the bench said: “You have filed a petition raising a very serious allegation in a most non-serious manner. You’re supposed to bring the material to the hilt when you came to the court.”

At this, Bhushan asked if it was “an unreasonable request” to ask for some more time.

Common Cause had sought investigation by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into alleged pay-offs by two corporate entities to several politicians and public functionaries purportedly for advancing their business interests.

Seeking the court’s intervention, the NGO described the matter as “extremely serious” where the “actionable evidence gathered in the raids on… (two corporate entities)… concerning corruption and bribing of important public functionaries was given a quiet burial by the Income Tax Department and the CBI.”

In the case of one corporate entity, the Central Bureau of Investigation conducted searches on October 15, 2013, and in the case of the second corporate entity, the Income Tax Department carried out raids on November 22, 2014.