J. Venkatesan

Shanthi Bhushan said: “The Supreme Court is giving protection to corrupt judicial officers”

You have no business to shout at judges,

Agrawal tells Prashant Bhushan

"I feel sorry for the way the Bar is behaving”

New Delhi: Justice B.N. Agrawal on Thursday took exception to an averment made by senior counsel Shanthi Bhushan in the ‘judges’ scam case’ that “the Supreme Court is giving protection to corrupt judicial officers.”

Annoyed at the insinuation, Justice Agrawal, heading a three-judge Bench abruptly concluded the hearing, saying he was recusing himself from the case and referred the matter to Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan for posting it before another Bench. Justices V. S. Sirpurkar and G. S. Singhvi are the other two judges on the Bench.

Two petitions seeking a CBI probe into the scam were posted before the Bench of Justice Agrawal after the Chief Justice recused himself from the case, allegedly involving judicial officers in Uttar Pradesh, sitting and retired judges of the Allahabad High Court and one sitting Supreme Court judge.

Mr. Shanthi Bhushan, appearing for Transparency International, one of the petitioners, said the observations made in the Justice K. Veeraswami judgment were only obiter dicta and not a binding precedent. He said the question of sanction for prosecution would arise only at the stage of taking cognisance of the charge sheet and at the stage of investigation.

Justice Agrawal told counsel: “We are governed by the Veeraswami judgment. No FIR can be registered against judges and without registration of FIR how can you proceed with the investigation? The immunity under the judgment is to protect honest judges. If there is investigation without an FIR, it will cast a slur on the reputation of the judge concerned as the entire suffering is only during the stage of investigation.”

When Mr. Shanthi Bhushan reiterated the submission that the Supreme Court was giving protection to corrupt judicial officers, Justice Agrawal said: “You are not behaving properly as a senior lawyer. You are arguing like a street urchin. I am taking serious objection to what you say. You withdraw the statement. I will not hear the case, come what may.”

Mr. Bhushan then withdrew the statement and the arguments continued.

At one stage, when counsel Prashant Bhushan stood up and tried to explain to his father the Veeraswami judgment, Justice Agrawal said, “Don’t provoke the senior counsel.” Mr. Prashant Bhushan replied, “I am also getting provoked. You are putting words into the mouth of the senior counsel and blaming him.”

Justice Agrawal said: “You have no business to shout at judges. This is professional misconduct. Behave properly, don’t shout like this. Senior counsel has been abusing the judiciary and the Supreme Court for the last two days. Is this the way to argue in this court? This is the most unfortunate thing to happen. When you repeatedly say that we are giving protection to corrupt judicial officers, I am not a sanyasi that I will be able to maintain my cool. I feel sorry for the way the Bar is behaving. You don’t have respect for the judiciary.”

Later Mr. Prashant Bhushan apologised to the judge .