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Justice B.S. Chauhan [pictured] of the Supreme Court, who was to hear a petition by Reliance Power Limited (RPL) challenging the Allahabad High Court judgment regarding the acquisition of agricultural land in Dadri, recused himself yesterday on the ground that he had already partially heard the matter when he was a judge of the Allahabad High Court.
Justice B.S. Chauhan [pictured] of the Supreme Court, who was to hear a petition by Reliance Power Limited (RPL) challenging the Allahabad High Court judgment regarding the acquisition of agricultural land in Dadri, recused himself yesterday. The cited reason – he had already partially heard the matter regarding the Rs. 25,000-crore power plant when he was a judge of the Allahabad High Court.
Consequently, the Bench led by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan adjourned the matter to January 18 when it will be presided over by a different Bench. On 4 December 2009, the Allahabad High Court had struck down the February 2004 notification of the Uttar Pradesh Government led by Mulayam Singh Yadav that used special powers to acquire 2,500 acres for the proposed 7,480 Mega Watt Dadri power project in Ghaziabad district.
In the petition, RPL is arguing that the High Court, wrongly exercising its discretionary powers, had not considered the four-year delay by the farmers in challenging the acquisition. RPL is alleging that the farmers were objecting to the acquisition of 2,500 acres only after being instigated by business rivals. The Allahabad High Court, in its order, had directed Reliance Power to obtain fresh approval for acquiring the land.
Despite Senior Counsels Mukul Rohatgi and Harish Salve, appearing for RPL and the Uttar Pradesh government respectively, having no objection to Justice Chauhan continuing on the Bench, he declined the requests and chose to recuse himself from the hearing. Counsel E.C. Agrawala is the Advocate on Record in the Supreme Court for Reliance Power.
Reliance disputes have seen a spate of recusals, beginning with Justice Raveendran in November 2009. Justice Raveendran, a part of the three-judge bench hearing the Ambani brothers’ dispute regarding the KG Basin gas distribution, had excused himself from the matter on the grounds that his daughter worked with a firm providing legal advice to RIL. Justice Markandey Katju had also, in November last year, retired from hearing the RIL – Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited naptha dispute, stating that his wife had investments in the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Mutual funds.