A Delhi court on Saturday restrained the media from publishing any news on the First Information Report the Central Bureau of Investigation filed against former Odisha High Court judge IM Quddusi in connection with a medical college scam. However, media houses can report on court proceedings related to the FIR, judge Twinkle Wadhwa said according to Livelaw.
The court said the order would be in place till the police complete the investigation or till further orders are passed, whichever is earlier.
The scam involves a medical college run by Prasad Education Trust in Lucknow. The Medical Council of India had denied the trust permission to operate the college, but a middleman allegedly assured the trust that the judiciary would allow it to run the institute. The trust then allegedly paid the middleman to facilitate this.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Qudussi. In his plea, Qudussi referred to articles published by The Wire, The Times of India and ABP News in January. The articles said transcripts of purported conversations between three accused – Qudussi, middleman Vishwanath Agarwala and BP Yadav of the Prasad Education Trust – revealed that college officials had planned to bribe senior functionaries of the Supreme Court and the Allahabad High Court for a favourable judgement.
Qudussi said media houses claimed to have got access to the CBI’s preliminary enquiry report even though the accused have not been handed over a copy.
Judge Wadhwa said the publications were prima facie defamatory, and would lead to obstruction of justice. They did amount to “adverse excessive publicity” for Qudussi and that there existed a “real and tangible risk to the plaintiff in not getting fair trial and open justice,” said the judge.
In November 2017, a bench headed by Justice Chelameswar admitted a petition seeking an inquiry into the case. Chief Justice Dipak Misra then put together a five-judge bench to reverse this order and asserted the chief justice’s right to be the sole master of the roster.
During the proceedings, some lawyers in the court openly questioned the judgment passed by Chelameswar. Another bench of the court, which heard the petitions later, fined the petitioners Rs 25 lakh for making baseless charges in the petition.
The petitioners did not want Misra to hear the case as the matter belonged to Odisha, where he was once a judge and that he had adjudicated on cases involving the medical colleges under the scanner. The court called the petition contemptuous, but stopped short of initiating contempt proceedings against the petitioners.
The handling of this case was one of the points of difference between the chief justice and the four other senior judges, who spoke out against him on January 12.