Justice Arun Mishra, a senior judge of the Supreme Court, deprecated the “emerging trend” on social media of pressurizing the judiciary and judges to give up cases and said such a practice amounted to deliberate interference with the judicial system.
Justice Mishra is heading a five-judge bench formed to end the stalemate over interpretation of section 24 of the Land Acquisition Act that involves fair compensation to landowners whose property is acquired by the state for public purposes and return of the land in case it is not utilized for the acquired purpose.
The larger bench has been set up in the wake of contradictory judgements on the law point.
Farmland owners have opposed justice Mishra heading the bench because he had authored one of the two judgements that has been referred to the constitution bench to determine its correctness. Arguments on justice Mishra’s presence on the bench commenced on Tuesday and continued all of Wednesday. The bench is expected to deliver its verdict in the matter of recusal on October 23.
During the hearing, justice Mishra almost choked and said he was pained to hear such arguments and the systematic pattern adopted to embarrass the judiciary and judges. He said that left to him he would have recused himself from the matter.
“My determination has been strengthened by these circumstances. It would be embarrassing for me to hear comments on my own argument.But I would not succumb to a lobby which under a certain guise is pressurizing the Chief Justice,” the judge said.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for Haryana, opposed the recusal plea. He said the trend of hearing-eve articles will jeopardise the functioning of judiciary. He asked the judge not to recuse himself under any circumstances. The reference is to articles in social media on farmer groups opposing the presence of justice Mishra on the bench dealing with the land acquisition matter.
“If a judge recuses under pressure then he defies the oath taken during his appointment,” Mehta told the bench.
Justice Mishra said such articles “were sponsored.”
“I say it loud and open. They are sponsored articles,” he told the solicitor general and other advocates present in the court.
The judge told Mehta that he should have pity on him. “Circumstances and the background created has forced me to hear the case,” he said.
“To succumb to (the plea for recusal) would be nothing short of bench-shopping! It will destroy the independence of the judiciary. You are asking for a bench of your preference, your liking? One that is of your formulation? That you think would favour you? You want to tame the judiciary? This is a grave issue!”, the judge told senior advocate Shyam Divan, who on behalf of the landowners said there was no intent of bench-hunting.
“We are worried about an apprehension of bias,” he clarified, explaining “Your presence is likely to restrain the advocates and the litigants alike in presenting our case. This would be like crossing the rubicon.”
Oct 17, 2019 00:00 IST