The Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana (who hails from AP) recused himself from hearing Andhra Pradesh’s plea after it said “no” to the Supreme Court’s suggestion to go for mediation over a dispute with Telangana over the Krishna River dispute.
What is Recusal ?
- When there is a conflict of interest, a judge can withdraw from hearing a case to prevent creating a perception that he carried a bias while deciding the case.
- The conflict of interest can be in many ways such as:
- Having a prior or personal association with a party involved in the case.
- Appeared for one of the parties involved in a case.
- Ex parte communications with lawyers or non-lawyers.
- An appeal is filed in the SC against a judgement of a High Court (HC) that may have been delivered by the SC judge when he was in the HC.
- In a matter of a company in which he holds shares unless he has disclosed his interest and there is no objection to it.
- The practice stems from the cardinal principle of due process of law that nobody can be a judge in her own case.
- Any interest or conflict of interest would be a ground to withdraw from a case since a judge has a duty to act fair.
Decision & Process of Recusal:
- The decision to recuse generally comes from the judge himself as it rests on the conscience and discretion of the judge to disclose any potential conflict of interest.
- Some judges orally convey to the lawyers involved in the case their reasons for recusal, many do not. Some explain the reasons in their order.
- In some circumstances, lawyers or parties in the case bring it up before the judge. Once a request is made for recusal, the decision to recuse or not rests with the judge.
- While there are some instances where judges have recused even if they do not see a conflict but only because such an apprehension was cast, there have also been several cases where judges have refused to withdraw from a case.
- If a judge recuses, the case is listed before the Chief Justice for allotment to a fresh Bench.
Rule for Recusal:
- There are no formal rules governing recusals, although several SC judgments have dealt with the issue.
- In Ranjit Thakur v Union of India (1987), the SC held that the test of the likelihood of bias is the reasonableness of the apprehension in the mind of the party.
- The judge needs to look at the mind of the party before him, and decide that he is biased or not.