#RecusalWatch: Seven judges recuse from ten cases

Recusal Watch

In this edition of Recusal Watch, we find that last week, seven judges of the Supreme Court of India recused from ten cases.

Chief Justice of India JS Khehar and Justices AM Khanwilkar and L Nageswara Rao recused from two cases each, while Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, DY Chandrachud and Navin Sinha recused from one each.

Justice Khehar recused from hearing Pravinsingh Bhurabha Chauhan v. State of Gujarat, listed before the bench headed by him and Justice DY Chandrachud on April 3.

This civil SLP, originating from the judgment of Gujarat High Court, was later heard by the bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta on April 7, when the petitioner was granted the liberty to file photographs from Google Earth, and complete the pleadings, before the matter is listed on July 3.

The High Court judgment was delivered on February 18, 2015 by the bench of then Acting Chief Justice Vijay Manohar Sahai and Justice RP Dholaria. In this PIL, the petitioner, a Kutch-based citizen, had alleged flattening of sand dunes near the sea-shore by the respondent company, the Adani group.

The High Court dismissed the petition on the ground that no construction activities were seen at the site proposed for ship recycling facility by the Adani group. The High Court also did not see merit in the plea for setting up an expert committee, when the Centre was already considering a report submitted by noted environmentalist, Sunita Narain, on similar complaints regarding severe impact upon environment safety and integrity committed by Adani Port and SEZ Ltd.

Chief Justice Khehar also recused on April 7 from hearing a writ petition filed by Kaloor Joseph, listed before the bench comprising himself, and Justices Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul. This petition, filed in 2014, seeks a writ to quash the amendment made to the Central Motor Vehicles (Fourth Amendment) Rules, 2012, which replaces Rule 118 , insofar as it does not insist for any speed controlling device for any public service vehicles, and compromises public safety.

Curiously, Chief Justice Khehar was part of the benches, which heard this case twice earlier, on January 27 and March 3.

Justice Khanwilkar recused from hearing Vinod Kumar Sonkar & Ors. v State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors, a civil SLP of 2016, arising from a judgment of Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court last year. The case was listed before Justice Dipak Misra and himself on April 3.

Another case from which Justice Khanwilkar recused was Dardar Saiprasad Coop. Housing Society v Shree Vardhaman Stanakvasi Jain Shravak, a civil SLP, arising out of a judgment of the Bombay High Court in 2014. The case was later listed before Justices R Banumathi and Mohan M Shantanagoudar, who posted it for hearing on April 11.

Justice Rao recused from hearing a civil transfer petition, V Lakshmi Vinuthna  Reddy and ANR v. V Surendranath Reddy, listed before Justice SA Bobde and himself on April 5. A matrimonial dispute, it was later heard by the bench of Justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan on April 12. The new bench referred it to the Mediation Centre at the Karnataka High Court.

Justice Rao also recused from hearing a civil appeal filed by State of Gujarat in 2008, State of Gujarat v Fuliben Ranchhodbhai, listed before Justice Bobde and himself on April 6.

Justice Dipak Misra recused from hearing a writ petition filed in 2015, Suraksha Foundation v Union of India, listed before himself and Justice Shantanagoudar on April 6. The case was earlier listed before the first bench, when both the Chief Justice and Justice Kaul had recused on February 27. The petitioner seeks installation of speed governors in public transport vehicles.  See the Bar & Bench story here.

Justice Chelameswar recused from hearing a civil SLP, Jai Balaji Industries Ltd. & ANR v Union of India , Ministry of Railways, listed before himself and Justice S Abdul Nazeer, on April 3. This was a civil SLP arising out of a Delhi High Court judgment in 2015, delivered by a division bench of the then Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath. This is an arbitration case, involving public private partnership in procurement of railway wagons.

Justice Navin Sinha recused from hearing a civil transfer petition, Hamar Sangwari (NGO) v Union of India and Ors, listed before Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and himself. As State of Chhattisgarh is also listed as a respondent, it is possible that Justice Sinha, who hailed from Chhattisgarh High Court, might have heard this case earlier.

This case was earlier heard by Justices Chelameswar and Sapre on February 9, when the bench directed issue of notice returnable in two weeks.

Lastly, Justice Chandrachud recused from hearing Maharashtra State Elec. Distribution Co.Lttd v M/s Datar Switchgear Ltd & Ors, a civil SLP, arising from a Bombay High Court judgment in 2013, listed before the Chief Justice, himself and Justice Kaul on April 7. An arbitration matter, it is possible that Justice Chandrachud might have heard this matter during his tenure at the Bombay High Court.