Recusal of Justice Dipak Misra in the LLB age limit case and the need for guidelines for recusal

Recusal of Justice Dipak Misra in the LLB age limit case and the need for guidelines for recusal

Murali Krishnan

The recusal of Justice Dipak Misra in the case challenging the age limit for admission to LLB and LLM courses has once again brought to fore, the significant issue of recusal by judges.

The case had come up before a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and R Banumathi today as item 61. Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal was appearing for one Michael Sam, a CLAT aspirant who is seeking impleadment in the case.

But even before Sibal could make his submissions, Justice Misra remarked that “it would be better if someone else hears this case”.

He then proceeded to dictate the order directing that the matter be placed before a Bench of which he is not a member.

Lawyers and scribes are speculating on the reasons for the same; and though the judge himself has not given any reason for the recusal, it appears that Justice Misra, while at Madhya Pradesh High Court had shared the Bench with Justice CK Prasad, who is the father of Bar Council of India’s lawyer AK Prasad.

But would that be the reason for his recusal?

What is intriguing is that Justice Misra had heard a case squarely concerning Justice CK Prasad. This was in 2015 when advocate Prashant Bhushan had approached the Supreme Court seeking amongst other things, registration of FIR against Justice Prasad for judicial misconduct and his removal from the post of Chairman of Press Council of India.

Justice Misra had heard that case and dismissed it while making some strong remarks against the petitioner.

Equally noteworthy is the fact that Justice Arun Mishra, who was on the Bench when hearing the current case on January 3 this year, has a history of being directly associated with the Bar Council of India, the respondent in the case. Justice Arun Mishra was the youngest Chairman of BCI from 1998-1999. He had, however, not recused from the case when the matter had come up for hearing on January 3. The Bench on that day had issued notice in the matter.

What is evident from these incidents is the random manner in which judges recuse from cases. This in turn can be attributed to the fact that there are no guidelines or standards to be followed while recusing from cases and it largely rests on the concerned judge.

But when judges recuse without giving reasons, the transparency that litigants desire from a court of law takes a hit.

As Anuj Agarwal had put it, “A codification of standard practices, or framing guidelines at the very least, on recusals” is the need of the hour.

Recently, Chief Justice of India, Justice JS Khehar had hinted at the same during the hearing of a case when he said that such guidelines are necessary so that unnecessary time is not wasted in hearing plea for recusal of judges.

“We must lay down some law to deal with these prayers for recusal. People waste our time seeking recusal. You stand up and say anything you want…”, Justice Khehar had remarked.

It would indeed be a welcome move, if Justice Khehar initiates this much-needed reform.

Image taken from here

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