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NGO requests Rs 25 lakh penalty be treated as donation, SC refers it to 3-judge bench

 
New Delhi, Jan 4 (IANS) NGO Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to treat Rs 25 lakh penalty imposed on it, for a PIL on medical college bribery scam, as a donation.

A bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and C.T. Ravikumar said only a three-judge bench can modify the order, as the original order was passed by a three-judge bench, and scheduled the matter for hearing before such a bench.

During the hearing, senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan, representing the petitioner, requested the top court to treat the penalty as a donation.

In December 2017, a three-judge bench imposed the cost on the CJAR, as it junked its PIL seeking SIT probe into the medical college bribery case allegedly involving few judges.

The bench refused to entertain another prayer by the CJAR seeking direction to transfer the cost to the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and instead directed the registry to transfer the amount to SCBA advocate welfare fund.

The top court said the CJAR's prayer cannot be taken forward as the original order passed in December 2017, directed the transfer of the money to the SCBA advocate welfare fund and not to the SCBA.

On the aspect of terming the penalty of Rs 25 lakh as donation, the top court said since order was passed by a three-judge bench, therefore the matter should be scheduled for consideration before a 3-judge bench.

During the hearing, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal contended that he personally had no objection in treating the penalty as donation.

Dhavan submitted CJAR was a platform having retired judges and imposition of penalty would be a stigma on several persons who are part of judicial accountability. "We ask for this simple favour," he submitted.

In 2017, the top court had issued directions to the petitioner to deposit the cost before the Registry within six weeks. In January 2021, the top court had condoned the delay in the CJAR paying the cost.

In 2017, the top court had observed that the NGO's petition was not only wholly frivolous, but contemptuous, unwarranted, aimed 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.

--IANS
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