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Recusals hit SC benches

IANS new delhi
Updated: 28-01-2019 23:20 IST

Recusals hit SC benches

There has been a sudden spate of recusals in cases in the highest judiciary with as many as four such instances over the past few days. Supreme Court judge A.K. Sikri had on last Thursday recused himself from hearing a plea challenging Nageswara Rao's appointment as interim Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief.

Sikri, heading a Supreme Court bench before which the NGO Common Cause's plea, deferred the hearing as he recused himself for having been part of the Selection Committee that gave its nod for Alok Verma's removal as the CBI Director. Justice Sikri expressed his inability to hear the matter in an obvious reference to his participation in the January 10 meeting of the Committee that ousted Verma.

A controversy had also erupted that Justice Sikri's name had been cleared for appointment to a tribunal in London after his retirement after the Alok Verma removal. He later refused the government's offer. Earlier, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had recused himself from hearing the same matter. The Chief Justice said he would be part of the selection committee meeting to choose the new CBI director .

The CJI had deputed Justice Sikri in his place at the meeting of the high-level selection panel as he had heard the case against him. Justice U.U. Lalit, who was part of a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by the CJI, opted out of the hearing in the Ayodhya title dispute case when senior lawyer Rajeev Dhawan who appeared on behalf of a Muslim party pointed out that he had appeared in a related case in 1994.

Following Justice Lalit's recusal, the Supreme Court on Friday reconstituted the five-judge bench to hear a batch of petitions challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court verdict tri-furcating the disputed site into three parts and giving one each to Nirmohi Akhara, Ram Lala and the original Muslim litigant. The newly constituted bench comprises CJI Gogoi, Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan, and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer.

Also, last week Delhi High Court judge Justice Mukta Gupta recused herself from hearing the plea of former Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his wife Pratibha Singh challenging a trial court order to frame charges against them and others in the disproportionate assets case. A sitting of constitution bench scheduled for January 29 has been deferred due to non-availability of Justice Bobde.