#RecusalWatch: Eight Supreme Court judges recuse from twelve cases

Our investigation on the recusal of cases in the Supreme Court shows that the judges who do so are extremely mindful of any remote association which they might have had with one of the litigants in a case before them, in the capacity of a judge or a counsel.

Chief Justice of India JS Khehar recused from hearing civil SLP (7202/2017), filed by University Grants Commission against Punjab University, arising out of a judgment delivered by the Punjab and Haryana High Court in January this year.

The CJI was sitting with Justices DY Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, before whom it was listed on March 10. Justice Khehar probably recused because he might have dealt with Punjab University matters as a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court earlier.

In Metal Box India Limited v T.K. Sehgal & Sons (SLP [c] 4919/2017), a Rent Act matter, Justice Kaul recused because his brother, Neeraj Kishan Kaul, had appeared as the senior counsel for the appellant, who lost the case in the Delhi High Court last year, giving rise to this SLP.

In Umashankar Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh, Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre recused on March 6. This civil SLP (No.23078/2015) originated from a judgment passed by the Allahabad High Court in May 2015. Justice Sapre also recused from another civil SLP (12245/2013), arising out of a judgment of Chhattisgarh High Court passed in 2012.

As Justice Sapre served in Chhattisgarh High Court as a judge from 2012-2013, it is possible that he might have heard the case then. It will now be listed before another bench on April 11. Both are ordinary civil cases.

In Govindarajan Padayatchi v Premananda Vijayakumaran @ Prem Anand and Ors, a civil SLP (28304 of 2016) dealing with matters relating to specific performance of contract, Justice AM Khanwilkar recused on March 6. Arising out of a judgment delivered by Madras High Court in June last year, it was listed before him when he sat with Justices Dipak Misra and Mohan M.Shantanagoudar.

Justice Khanwilkar also recused from hearing a civil writ petition filed by well-known educationist, who had lent his name to another landmark case earlier, P.A. Inamdar [WP(C) 142 of 2017].  In this latest petition, Inamdar is challenging the Medical Council of India’s authority to regulate admissions in minority educational institutions. More specifically, he is  challenging the latest amendments to the Dentists Act, 1948 and the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, inserting new provisions to facilitate common entrance examinations.

Justice Khanwilkar was his counsel in the Supreme Court before he became a judge of the Bombay High Court in 2000.

On March 6, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit recused from hearing a civil SLP [6907 of 2017], Deepti Singh v Union of India, a matter dealing with admission/transfer to engineering/medical colleges, arising out of a judgment delivered by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on December 1 last year. The matter was listed before bench comprising Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and himself.

That same day, Justice Prafulla Chandra Pant recused from hearing a criminal SLP (9734 of 2013), Rajiv Ratna v State of Uttarakhand, a matter filed by a complainant, arising out of a judgment delivered by the Uttarakhand High Court in 2013, where he served as a judge earlier. The matter was listed before the bench of Justices NV Ramana and himself.

Justice Deepak Gupta recused from hearing two civil SLPs – one on March 7, State of Tripura v Jayantha Chakraborty, arising out of a service-promotion matter decided by the Tripura High Court, (19765 of 2015) and another on March 10, Maheshwar Singh & Anr v State of Himachal Pradesh & Ors, arising out of an ordinary civil matter decided by the Himachal Pradesh High Court.

Justice Gupta had served in both these high courts earlier, and possibly dealt with them during his tenure. The matters were listed before Justice Madan B Lokur and himself.

Lastly, Justice L Nageswara Rao recused from hearing Criminal Appeal (425/2009), Paramjit Kaur Khalna v State of Punjab on March 9, and a civil SLP (8710/2009), RK Barwal & Ors v State of Himachal Pradesh, a service matter involving seniority, on March 10. Both were listed before the bench of Justice SA Bobde and himself.