The Central Bureau of Investigation conducted raids in the offices of sitting Allahabad high court judge Shri Narayan Shukla after the agency filed a case against him for allegedly accepting a bribe to give a favourable order to one Prasad Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Lucknow.
Ever since the medical college bribery scandal hit the news in May 2017, the Union government barred PIMS from admitting any more students. Now Justice Shukla has been named as the prime accused in the case along with retired Odisha high court judge I.M. Quddusi, who was arrested in September 2017. Four other middlemen, including Bhawana Pandey and Bhagwan Prasad, were also arrested in the matter.
The CBI searched the residences of Justice Shukla in Lucknow, Justice Quddusi in Delhi and five other places, including one in Meerut. It claimed that its team found many incriminating documents related to their investments. Both Shukla and Quddusi have been booked for criminal conspiracy and various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Shukla may soon be in the line of arrests and that would be one of the few cases in which a sitting judge will be under custody. Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in July this year gave the CBI a green light to initiate proceedings against Shukla. Gogoi has also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi recommending Shukla’s removal after an in-house committee – comprising the then Madras high court Chief Justice Indira Banerjee, then Sikkim high court Chief Justice SK Agnihotri and Madhya Pradesh high court judge P.K. Jaiswal – found him guilty of judicial irregularities in January 2018.
Since the beginning, the medical college bribery case appeared to have opened a Pandora’s box. In January 2018, advocate Prashant Bhushan had written a complaint to the five senior-most puisne Supreme Court judges had demanded an investigation against former CJI Dipak Misra, and senior judges of the Allahabad high court and Supreme Court.
Before that, some leaked telephonic conversations indicated intense lobbying between middlemen and senior judicial functionaries of the Supreme Court and Allahabad high court to secure favourable judgements for the Prasad Education Trust-run Glocal Medical College and Super Speciality Hospital and Research Centre. These medical colleges were banned by the Union government.
The transcripts revealed that illegal money amounting to crores may have been exchanged between middlemen, the medical college and judicial functionaries. Bhushan alleged that a probe must be initiated against Misra as he headed all the benches that had given favourable judgments to the college in hearings that lasted from August to September 2017.
After the CBI found evidence, it secured a probe order against Shukla and Quddusi. However, Justice Misra has not been named by the CBI for any alleged wrongdoing.
Interestingly, the in-house probe against Justice Shukla was ordered by Misra himself in November 2017 on a complaint by Uttar Pradesh advocate general Raghvendra Singh.
Justice Quddusi was arrested by the CBI in September 2017 for the same charges – demanding and accepting a bribe from PIMS in lieu of a favourable order.
The Hindustan Times reported that the CBI FIR says that PIMS was debarred for substandard facilities and non-fulfilment of required criteria along with 46 other medical colleges. However, it through a series of motivated writ petitions, that PIMS secured a favourable order from Justice Shukla, who is said to have taken a bribe. PIMS personnel and Shukla, according to the FIR, met through Quddusi, who was a common connection.
The FIR also says that when Shukla’s order was challenged by the Medical Council of India at the Supreme Court, the matter was listed before a bench of the CJI Misra and two more judges. It adds that since the matter was in the apex court, one B.P. Yadav of PIMS “pursued with I.M. Quddusi and Bhawana Pandey to get back the bribe paid to Justice Shri Narayan Shukla”.
“Quddusi further contacted Shukla for return of the illegal gratification earlier paid to him and part of it was returned,” said the CBI FIR.