Taking strong exception to social media posts and demands for his recusal from a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court which is hearing the interpretation of a provision of the land acquisition Act, Justice Arun Mishra Tuesday asked whether this amounted to maligning the court, and said “my conscience is clear, my integrity is clear before God, I will not budge”.
His remarks came after senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for some land associations, sought his recusal, pointing out that there may be some impropriety if he hears the matter.
Justice Mishra heads the five-judge Constitution Bench, also comprising Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah and S Ravindra Bhat, which has been set up to examine the correctness of two conflicting decisions of the Supreme Court regarding interpretation of Section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (also Land Acquisition Act, 2013).
One of these two decisions had come from a three-judge bench headed by Justice Mishra and also comprising Justices A K Goel (since retired) and Mohan M Shantanagoudar. The other ruling had come from another three-judge bench of Chief Justice of India R M Lodha and Justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph (who have all retired since).
Social media users, including lawyers of the top court, had questioned Justice Mishra’s presence on the Constitution Bench that will decide on the two rulings.
Justice Mishra said: “Is this not maligning the court? If you had left it to me, I would have decided… But you are taking to the social media to malign me… and the Chief Justice of India?… Can this be the atmosphere of the court? It can’t be like this… Tell me one judge who has not taken a view on this. Will that mean all of us are disqualified?… This matter should not have been listed before me. But now it is before me, so the question of my integrity has arisen.”
Read in Tamil here.
“I may be criticised for my view, I may not be a hero and I may be a blemished person but if I am satisfied that my conscience is clear, my integrity is clear before God, I will not budge. If I think I will be influenced by any extraneous factor, I will be the first to recuse here,” he said.
The bench told Divan that he will have to convince it why recusal was necessary. Opposing the recusal request, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said it undermines not only the presiding officer but also other members of the bench who may have different views on the matter.
Divan said he was not demanding recusal as a legal principle. “I am only saying consider it, and we leave it to you,” he said.
“So why was this request not made first before this bench before taking it to the social media,” asked Justice Shah.
Justice Bhat pointed out that there could be cases where a Supreme Court judge may have adopted a certain view in that matter when he or she was in the High Court. “Can that be a ground to claim recusal,” he sought to know.