The division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice (ACJ) of Gujarat High Court Justice V M Sahai on Monday recused from hearing a petition involving Reliance Group. Justice Sahai while noting that the bench can’t take up the case said in the open court, “whatever has happened in the last two-three days has shaken our confidence.”
Justice Sahai had partly heard the Reliance matter on Friday and had listed it for further hearing. On Monday, the division bench led by Justice Sahai told the petitioner’s lawyer Anand Yagnik that they can’t take up this case for further hearing any more.
He said, “We can’t take up take up the case… whatever has happened in the last two-three days has shaken our confidence.”
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When the petitioner’s lawyer Anand Yagnik told the bench that he has faith in the court Justice Sahai said that he can’t take up the case as he wants to restrain from any controversy.
“I can’t say what might have transpired that led to such statement from the bench. We should not assume anything,” said Advocate General Kamal Trivedi about the statement from the ACJ. Trivedi was present before the bench to represent the state government in the case.
The bench ordered Monday “List these matters before a bench of which both of us are not members.”
The order states, “These matters were part-heard at the admission stage before the Division Bench of Justice KS Jhaveri and Justice A G Uraizee. But since the matters at pre-admission stage cannot be marked as part-heard in view of instructions dated 10.6.2015 as reproduced in our order dated 19.6.2015, therefore, we had taken up the petitions and heard the matters for a short while.”
Yagnik, told this paper that it was unusual for the bench comprising Justice Sahai to recuse from a case after admitting a petition and partly hearing it.
He said that the case concerns land acquisition by Reliance for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Jamnagar for petroleum and petro products for Reliance Project Engineering Associates Limited.
According to the petition, “Under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 about 4,494 hectares which comes to 11,235 acres of land of 5 villages viz. Navagam, Kanalus, Kanachhikari, Padana and Derachhikari was acquired by Reliance Industries Ltd by 2008 for the purpose of establishment of SEZ.”
The petitioners who are residents of these villages, have claimed that the permission for establishing SEZ was extended twice but only 1,764 hectares of land has been utilized. The petitioners have also claimed that the acquired land is used for expansion of the company’s refinery and not for the purpose of SEZ.
The petitioners have claimed that since SEZ hasn’t come up therefore, the entire land as per SEZ Act, 2005 should be transferred back to the State of Gujarat. The lawyer representing the Reliance refused to comment.