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During May 1 to 9, the last working week of the Supreme Court before it broke for the summer vacation, 10 judges recused from hearing 16 cases.
The surprise among the pack was the recusal of Justice J Chelameswar from hearing the criminal writ petition, ND Jayaprakash v Union of India, [25/2016], which was listed before himself and Justice Abdul Nazeer on May 4. A contempt petition was also listed along with the writ petition.
The petition was filed by social activist ND Jayaprakash in the aftermath of the police inaction against unruly lawyers at Patiala House courts. Kanhaiya Kumar, who faced allegations of sedition for a speech made in the JNU campus, was required to participate in the judicial proceedings at the Patiala House Court complex in New Delhi, on February 17 last year. His presence there provoked violence by some unruly lawyers against him and the police failed to prevent it, despite clear directions from the Supreme Court.
Justice Chelameswar’s recusal was a huge surprise because the case was listed before the Bench presided by him 13 times earlier, although it never really amounted to anything.
Will his recusal mean that the case has to be reheard again from a scratch by another Bench? Although it would seem to be a setback, the petitioner can be hopeful that the new Bench would speedily dispose of the case and pass appropriate orders.
The incident is a clear case of contempt of court, Jayaprakash has alleged. He has sought initiation of contempt proceedings against former Commissioner of the Delhi Police BS Bassi, and Deputy Commissioner of Police Jatin Narwal, for willful contempt of the Supreme Court’s order dated February 17, 2016. Reports by Court-appointed independent groups of lawyers into the incident have found substance in his allegations against the police officials.
Justice Deepak Gupta recused from hearing Indian Radiological and Imaging Association Through Its President v Union of India, a civil SLP [11046/2017] listed before him in chambers, on May 1. This arose out of a Delhi High Court judgment dated February 17, 2016.
Justice Deepak Gupta also recused from hearing another civil SLP, Rajeshwar Singh & Ors v State of Himachal Pradesh & Anr. [1017/2014], listed before Justice Madan B Lokur and himself on May 4. This arose out of a Himachal Pradesh High Court judgment dated July 31, 2013 in OSA 18/2002.
Justice Kurian Joseph recused from hearing K Karim & Ors Etc v State of Kerala and Ors Etc. [SLP CC 8973-8974/2017], listed before himself and Justice R Banumathi on May 1. This case arose out of a Kerala High Court judgment dated April 6, 2016, in WPC 31569/2009. The matter was listed before Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta on May 8, when it issued notice.
Justice Lokur recused from hearing Bhagmal (D) Through LRS v Union of India [Civil SLP 35967/2013], listed before himself and Justice Deepak Gupta on May 1. This arose out of a Delhi High Court judgment dated May 8, 2013 in RSA No.219/2008. It will now be listed before another bench on July 7.
He also recused from hearing Gajendra Singh Kundu v Union of India, [Civil SLP, 14081/2017], listed before himself and Justice Deepak Gupta on May 5. The case, involving a matter pertaining to armed forces & paramilitary forces, saw another recusal on May 9, as Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul withdrew from hearing it, when it was listed before Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and himself.
Justice Lokur became the fifth judge to recuse from hearing Suraksha Foundation v Union of India, a civil writ petition [793/2015], whose history of recusals can be read here. It is not at all clear why as many as five judges recused from hearing a petition seeking directions to install speed governors in public transport vehicles. If the judges think that the petition amounts to seeking the Court to legislate, then a better way to deal with it would be to say so and dismiss it.
Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre recused from hearing a civil SLP, Hemcharan
Sahu (D) Th.LRS v State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors [30787/2012], listed before Justice RK Agrawal and himself on May 4. This arose out of a Chhattisgarh High Court judgment dated May 9, 2012 in MCC No.390/2012 in WP No.4671/2000. It will now be heard by another Bench on August 4.
He also recused from hearing a civil SLP [26659/2015], Kalabai v Executive Engineer, Public Health Yantriki & Ors, which was listed before the same Bench, on May 5. The case, involving a labour matter under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, arose out of a Madhya Pradesh High court judgment dated May 6, 2015 in WPC 5871/2014.
Justice Sapre also recused from hearing Husna Bano v Mohd Shakeel and Ors, a civil SLP [13484/2017], dealing with a benami transaction, listed before the same Bench on May 1. This arose out of a Madhya Pradesh High Court judgment dated January 31, 2017 in CRA No 56/2013. The Bench of Justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, which heard the SLP, on May 9, has issued notice in the matter.
Justice AM Khanwilkar recused from hearing a civil appeal [5242/2017], The Provident Investment Co. Ltd v Hemlata Vijaysinh Ved & Ors, listed before himself and Justices Dipak Misra and Mohan M Shantanagoudar, on May 4.
He also recused from hearing a criminal SLP [10338/2014], Mangalbhai Nanasaheb Ubale & Anr v State of Maharashtra, listed before the same Bench on May 4. This arose out of a Bombay High Court (at Aurangabad) judgment dated December 11, 2014 in CWP 1445/2014. It will now be listed before another Bench on July 3.
Justice Arun Mishra recused from hearing a civil SLP (24383/2014), Industrial Infrastructure Dev. Corpn v Virendra Builders and Developers Pvt Ltd & Others, listed before himself and Justice Amitava Roy, on May 9. This arose out of a Madhya Pradesh High Court judgment dated February 20, 2014 in WP 5812/2013.
Justice Uday Umesh Lalit recused from hearing a criminal SLP, ABC v State of NCT of Delhi and Anr [3513/2017], listed before Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and himself on May 4. The case, involving a matter related to quashing of criminal proceedings, arose out of a Delhi High Court judgment dated November 17, 2016 in CRLMC 2522/2015.
Justice Lalit also recused from hearing a criminal appeal [963/2016], Anil Kumar Verma v State of U.P.& Anr, listed before the same bench on May 1. A matter related to quashing of criminal proceedings, this is an appeal against the Allahabad High Court judgment dated February 10, 2016 in APPLI No 1009/2016.
Lastly, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman recused from hearing a civil appeal [1552/2008], Adj. Offr, Sec & Exchange Board of India v Phiroze Sethna Pvt Ltd & Ors, a Company Law and appeal u/s 15z of the SEBI Act, 1992. It was listed before Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and himself on May 3.