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Justice Mishra Refuses to Recuse Himself From Gujarat Land Cases

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Mishra pronounced the order.

3 min read
Justice Mishra Refuses to Recuse Himself From Gujarat Land Cases
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The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 23 October, said that Justice Arun Mishra will not recuse from hearing a Constitution bench matter challenging provisions of the Land Acquisition Act.

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Mishra pronounced the order and said, “I am not recusing from hearing this matter”.

Various farmers association and individuals have raised objection to Justice Mishra hearing the matter on the grounds that he has already expressed his mind in the judgment pronounced by the apex court in February last year.

The other members of the Constitution bench include Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah and S Ravindra Bhat.

The Constitution bench asked parties in the matter to suggest legal questions which would be adjudicated upon by the court.


Ploy of “Bench Hunting”

The court had, on 16 October, deprecated the attempts made for recusal of Justice Mishra from the Constitution bench hearing, saying it is nothing but a ploy of "bench hunting" which, if allowed, "would destroy the institution".

The top court had said if request of parties demanding that Justice Mishra be recused is accepted, it would be the “blackest chapter in history” as an “onslaught is going on to tame the judiciary”.

"This is nothing but an attempt of bench hunting and you want a person of your liking to be in the bench. If we allow your request and accept your view for recusal of judge, it will be destroying the institution. This is a serious issue and history will judge it that even senior counsel were involved in this attempt," Justice Mishra had told senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for a farmer association.

Divan had contended that a judge must avoid any reasonable apprehension of bias, otherwise there would be erosion of public confidence and their prayer for recusal is nothing but for upholding the integrity of the institution.

He had said their prayer is not remotely concerned with bench hunting and "there are global principles that have to be applied here. We are only drawing attention to it".


Plea Seeking Recusal ‘Sponsored’

During the hearing on 16 October, Justice Mishra had observed that the plea seeking his recusal from the bench is "sponsored" and said, "In case, we succumb to these attempts this would be the blackest chapter in the history. These forces are trying to compel the court to act in a particular way. Onslaught is going on to tame this institution. This cannot be the way, must not be the way, and shall not be the way".

Without naming anybody, Justice Mishra had said “these forces which are trying to compel this court to act in a particular way, are forces which are compelling me to continue. Otherwise, I would have recused”.

He had said that as a judge, he knows the responsibility to protect this institution for the people and observed, "What is happening in this institution is really shocking".

Divan had referred to various judgments and said that a judge should not be unduly sensitive when recusal is sought, should not take it as a personal affront.

In 2014, another verdict had, however, held that land acquisition can be quashed on account of the delay in accepting the compensation.

On 6 March last year, the apex court had said that a larger bench would test the correctness of verdicts delivered by these two benches of similar strength on the same issue.

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