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SC reserves order on TN's plea

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Supreme Court

The hearing on November 10 had brought the tussle within top judiciary to the fore with the Constitution bench overturning the order of a two-judge bench to set up a larger bench to hear the graft case allegedly involving judges.

On Friday, petitioner and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who had sought an SIT Investigation in the medical college bribery scam, accused CJI Dipak Misra of presiding over a "hand-picked bench to override yesterday's order" by another top court bench.

"Do baseless accusations against the Chief Justice of India not amount to contempt?" How can a judicial order be given to probe judges when other agencies are looking into the case?

Justice Chandrachud made it clear that the exemption from ban applies to municipal areas across the country and not specifically to Chandigarh though the matter pertained to Chandigarh.

Attorney General KK Venugopal observed that the court was facing a crisis that was brought about by the petitions. "The HC says municipal areas in the Supreme Court order means only areas in Punjab, and not in Chennai".

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On November 9, a bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S Abdul Nazeer had ordered that the plea should be heard by a five-judge constitution bench of the senior-most judges of the apex court.

At the outset, a three-judge Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Kanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, orally clarified that the objective of the July 11 order was only to clarify that stretches of highways running through municipal areas were exempted from the December 2016 ban on sale of liquor within 500 metres along national and state highways.

CJI Misra over-ruled the order of Justice Chelameswar directing a constitution bench hearing, saying "if any such order has been passed by any bench, that can not hold the field as that will be running counter to the order passed by the constitution bench".

However, invalidating the order, the five-judge bench comprising the CJI, Justice Agrawal, Justice Arun Mishra, Justice Amitava Roy and Justice Khanwilkar said that the CJI was the "Master of Roll" and he alone can assign cases to different benches and decide composition of benches. The judge had later been released on bail.

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