SC reprimands petitioner for seeking recusal of Chief Justice


New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday gave a dressing down to activist Harsh Mander for seeking recusal of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in a sensitive matter by saying it would not allow anybody to “browbeat” and “damage the institution”.
Mander, who has alleged bias on the part of the CJI in hearing a matter related to detention of illegal foreigners in Assam, was told by the apex court that it would not allow the institution to “crumble”.
In further embarrassment for Mander, the CJI, who refused to recuse himself from hearing the matter, struck off his name from cause title as petitioner and replaced it with Supreme Court Legal Services Authority versus Union of India and others.
The strategy by Mander to argue the matter himself by discharging his activist advocate Prashant Bhushan boomeranged as the apex court asked Bhushan to assist it as amicus curiae.
There was further surprise in store for Bhushan as the bench made it clear that his role in assisting the court will be limited to the issue of conditions prevailing at detention centres in Assam and not on the ones like deportation of foreigners.
In the order, the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, clearly stated, “All that we would like to say is that the inability/difficulty/ handicap of a judge to hear a matter should be perceived by the judge himself and not by the litigant and the ground for seeking recusal of the CJI from the bench have enormous potential of causing damage to the institution”.
However, thrust of the hearing which lasted for around 40 minutes witnessed Mander getting severely reprimanded by the bench for his averments that statements made by the judges of the apex court have a “ripple effect” not just within the judiciary but amongst the public at large.
The bench expressed displeasure against Mander for filing an application for recusal of the CJI in which he alleged that Justice Gogoi has “pre-judged” the outcome of case and the CJI, in his sub-conscious bias, made certain oral observations during last hearings.
“So when the court is agreeing with you, it is okay. But we do not agree with you, you start levelling allegations of bias. This is completely unacceptable,” the bench said.
The CJI and the two judges drew the attention of Mander to the various orders passed by the court in the matter and told him, “How can you ever form an opinion that the court has already decided the matter and you can seek the recusal of CJI just on the basis of observations made during the hearing”.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said contents in Mander’s plea were “not only scandalous” but also “contemptuous”. (PTI)