The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered a corruption case against sitting Allahabad High Court judge SN Shukla, PTI reported on Friday, citing officials. The allegations against Shukla pertain to the Medical Council of India bribery case.
The action came four months after former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi permitted the CBI to file a case against the serving high court judge. The Supreme Court had in 1991 ruled that investigating agencies must show evidence to the chief justice before filing a case against a sitting judge of the top court or High Courts. This was reportedly the first time the chief justice had approved such a request.
The alleged scam involves some medical colleges that were denied permission to function by the Medical Council of India. A middleman allegedly assured the colleges that the judiciary would allow them to keep running. The institutes then allegedly paid the middleman to facilitate this.
Besides Shukla, former Orissa High Court judge IM Quddusi, who was already named in the chargesheet, and four others – Bhawana Pandey, Bhagwan Prasad Yadav and Palash Yadav of Prasad Education trust, and another alleged middleman Sudhir Giri – have been booked by the CBI in an FIR filed on December 4.
The CBI also carried out searches at the residence of Shukla in Lucknow, Quddusi’s residence in Delhi and five other places, according to the Hindustan Times. Several incriminating documents related to investments and financial transactions were recovered, said the agency.
“...it is revealed that Justice Shri Narayan Shukla...abused his official position and entered into criminal conspiracy...and obtained illegal gratification in order to obtain pecuniary advantage for BP Yadav and Palash Yadav of Prasad Education trust...,” the probe agency said in its FIR.
The agency said Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences was debarred in May 2017 by the central government from admitting medical students in academic years 2017-’18 and 2018-’19 due to substandard facilities and non-fulfillment of required criteria along with 46 other medical colleges on similar grounds. The Prasad Education trust challenged the decision before the Supreme Court through a writ petition, CBI said.
“Subsequently, a conspiracy was hatched among the FIR named accused and the writ petition was withdrawn with the permission of the court,” it added. “Another writ petition was filed before Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court on August 24, 2017. It was further alleged that the petition was heard on August 25, 2017, by the division bench of the court comprising of Justice SN Shukla and a favourable order was passed on the same day.”
“Quddusi and BP Yadav of Prasad Trust met Justice Shri Narayan Shukla in the morning of August 25, 2017 at his residence in Lucknow regarding the matter and delivered illegal gratification,” the FIR stated.
Shukla’s verdict was challenged by the Medical Council of India three days later in the Supreme Court. It was heard by the then chief justice and two other judges. The top court disposed off the high court petition as the matter was already being heard. After this, the FIR alleged, “BP Yadav pursued with IM Quddusi and Bhawana Pandey to get back the bribe paid to Justice Shri Narayan Shukla”.
In January 2018, an in-house committee set up by Gogoi’s predecessor, Dipak Misra, found judicial irregularities in the Medical Council of India bribery case and had asked Shukla to resign or retire voluntarily. After Shukla had done neither, Misra asked the chief justice of the Allahabad High Court to not give him judicial work. Shukla had then reportedly gone on a long leave.
In June, Gogoi had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to initiate a motion in Parliament to remove Shukla. Gogoi had in May declined Shukla’s request for judicial work to be allocated to him again.
On September 19, 2017, the CBI had filed an FIR against Quddusi and others for allegedly bribing public officials. However, the FIR did not mention Shukla.
Shukla joined the Allahabad High Court in 2005 and is scheduled to retire in July 2020.