#RecusalWatch: Justice AM Khanwilkar recuses from three cases, six other Judges recuse from seven cases

Bar & Bench December 10 2017
Supreme Court

With the new Supreme Court website slowly becoming fully functional, we are re-launching the Recusal Watch series, which was discontinued when the Supreme Court migrated to the new website.

Here is a look at the recusals from December 4 to December 8.

From December 4 to 8, seven Supreme Court judges recused from hearing ten cases.

First, the Judge who recused from hearing most number of cases. Justice AM Khanwilkar was in the news recently for refusing to recuse, as prayed for by the petitioner, in Kamini Jaiswal v Union of India. That was a plea for an independent and impartial probe into the alleged attempt to influence the Supreme Court bench, which heard a matter involving recognition of a medical college in Lucknow.

It may well be a coincidence that just last week, Justice Khanwilkar recused from hearing three cases.

The first was Barun Chandra Thakur v Union of India, which was heard by Justice Khanwilkar, along with Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice DY Chandrachud three times earlier. This case arose out of the horrific incident at a school in Gurugram, in which a fourth class student was killed under mysterious circumstances within the school premises. The petitioner has prayed for framing guidelines and to take appropriate actions against violators. Justice Khanwilkar recused from hearing the case which is now being heard by a Bench of Justices RK Agrawal and Abhay Manohar Sapre.

The second case from which Justice Khanwilkar recused was CBI v. Virbhadra Singh. The case is an appeal filed by the CBI against the Delhi high Court judgment, dated March 31, 2017 in the case involving Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Virbhadra Singh.  The CBI had alleged that Virbhadra Singh and his wife had acquired assets disproportionate to their known sources of income during his tenure as the Union Minister of State from 2009 and 2012. Justice Vipin Sanghi, who decided the case in the Delhi High Court, had dismissed Singh’s petition challenging the CBI’s second preliminary enquiry against him.

Interestingly, Justice Sanghi had also dismissed an application filed for his recusal.

The matter will now be listed before another bench on December 15.

The third case Justice Khanwilkar recused from hearing was DSK Durgamata Tower CHS Ltd v Sanjay Shankar Kokate, which is an appeal against the order of the Bombay High Court on November 16. The case is a PIL pertaining to access to a public park in Mumbai.  The matter was disposed of by a bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit, on December 5, giving liberty to the appellant to move the High Court seeking expeditious hearing.

Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman recused from hearing two cases - Euro Vistaa Ltd v Aster Commodities DMCC and Others, and Union of India v Vodafone.  The first one, an arbitration matter, pending since 2014, was listed before him and Justice Navin Sinha on December 5, when he recused. It will now be listed before another bench on December 11. The second case, an SLP filed against an order of the Delhi High Court, is also an arbitration matter, and will now go before another bench on December 15.

Other recusals

Justice Uday Umesh Lalit (sitting with Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel) recused from hearing Jagdish Tytlor v. CBI, a criminal SLP filed against an order of Delhi High Court in a matter under the Prevention of Corruption Act. It will be listed before another bench on December 11.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul (sitting with Justice Jasti Chelameswar) recused on December 7, from hearing V Surendra Mohan v. State of Tamil Nadu, a civil SLP against the Madras High Court order in a service matter, pending since 2015. It will go before another bench on December 15.

Justice Arun Mishra (sitting with Justice Mohan M Shantanagoudar) recused from hearing Bhagwan Lal v Shyam Mohan Shivhare on December 8.  A Civil SLP against Madhya Pradesh high court judgment in a writ petition, it will now be heard by another bench, on January 25.

Justice L Nageswara Rao, (sitting with Justice SA Bobde), recused on December 6, from hearing National Insurance Co. Ltd through its Branch Manager v Vijayasarathi Tobacco Company  Tangutur Through Its Managing Partners.  Earlier, Justice NV Ramana had also recused from hearing this matter on July 20.

Interesting  case of the Assam temple management

Justice Amitava Roy (sitting with Justice Kurian Joseph) recused from hearing The Bordeeuri Samaj of Sri Sri Maa Kamakhya Through Its Doloi, Kabindra Prasad Sarma, [Kamakhya Dham, Guwahati] v Riju Prasad Sarma, on December 5.  A civil contempt petition in a civil appeal, pending since 2015, it will now go before another bench on January 5, next year. The civil appeal was disposed of in a judgment delivered by Justice Shiva Kirti Singh, on July 7, 2015.

The matter concerns the Sri Sri Maa Kamakhya Devalaya, the most significant among the 51 Shaktipeethas. The Court restored the administration of the temple to the Bordeuri Samaj, comprising five main families of priests who had run the temple since time immemorial until 1998 – when the Kamakhya Debuttar Board was formed. Families of the priests of the main temple are called Bordeuris, while families of the priests of the subsidiary temples are known as Deuris.  The head priest of Kamakhya is called Doloi.

Unlike the famous Sabarimala case, when the Supreme Court  made several observations in favour of women, in this case, the Supreme Court categorically turned down – “with a heavy heart” – a plea by a group of citizens to grant voting rights to women belonging to the priests’ families while electing the Bordeuri and dolois.  “It is indeed difficult for this court to come to a definite conclusion that the petitioners’ claim to equality (for women) for the purpose at hand is well established", the court had held.

The contempt case is about the non-compliance with the Court’s July 7, 2015 judgment. It is likely to be listed before another bench in which Justice Amitava Roy is not a member, on January 5, next year.