Supreme Court reserves order on plea for Justice Arun Mishra’s recusal

Justice Arun Mishra

New Delhi, Oct 16 : The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that the attempts made for recusal of its judge Justice Arun Mishra from the five-judge Constitution bench hearing pleas linked to compensation in the Land Acquisition Act matter is a practice of “bench hunting which, if allowed, would destroy the institution”.

The top court’s observation came while hearing plea of senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing some farmer associations and individuals. He had registered an objection over Justice Mishra hearing the matter, and sought his recusal citing judicial propriety.

“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,” Justice Mishra said and reserved the order on the plea over recusal.

The bench, which also comprises Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Sharan, M.R. Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat, said that it will deliver order on plea seeking recusal of Justice Mishra from hearing the matter on October 23, terming it as a serious issue as senior counsel were also involved in such kind of practice.

“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,” the top court said.

The plea seeking Justice Mishra’s recusal from the bench is sponsored, it added.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that Justice Mishra should not recuse in the interest of the institution.

Justice Mishra said that he was hearing the matter only for the people and for institution and the attack on the institution has compelled him to stay on the Bench.

Duing the hearing, he complimented Divan for his “fearless” arguments seeking his recusal in land acquisition case and asked him why he cannot argue the case on merit with same courage instead of seeking his recusal.

Justice Mishra also said that neither the farmers nor their association are seeking his recusal from hearing land acquisition matter but there are some powerful persons behind the campaign against him.

Divan had told the court that the bench would have to look into the verdict, which Justice Mishra authored. Justice Mishra was part of the verdict in February last year, which held acquisition of the land by a government agency cannot be overturned, if there was delay by land owners who fail to accept compensation within five years, citing pending court cases. In 2014, another verdict had ruled the land acquisition can be overturned if there is delay in accepting the compensation awarded against the acquisition.

In March 2018, the top court had said a larger bench would look into the verdicts.

Divan told the bench that Justice Mishra had expressed his opinion in an over 100 page judgement and opined other view taken by another bench is bad in law. Therefore, a judge cannot sit over appeal of his past verdict, he added.

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