Litigants quite often break down in courts but not the judges.
The Supreme Court witnessed this unusual scene on Friday when Justice AR Lakshmanan, heading the Bench that was to hear a review petition of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav's son Akhilesh against the order for CBI probe into their alleged disproportionate assets, broke down.
Justice Lakshmanan, who is scheduled to retire on March 22, refused to hear the review petition filed by Akhilesh, saying this morning he received an anonymous letter with heinous contents and allegations against him.
As the hearing commenced, Justice Lakshmanan dropped a bombshell by saying that the case should go to the Chief Justice as he has received a letter leveling allegations against him.
"In 17-and-a-half years of my judicial career as a Judge and five years in this court, I have never gone through such a thing. I am very much pained. The contents of the letter are so heinous that my wife and I are very disturbed. I am not even able to speak," Justice Lakshmanan said as his voice choked with emotion. He, however, did not reveal the contents of the said letter.
The other judge on the Bench, Justice Kabir said such a letter at a time when Justice Lakshmanan was due to retire shortly was "shocking".
Seeing the Judge in tears, senior counsel Soli J Sorabjee, Ashok Desai and Mukul Rohtagi and Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramanian requested him to simply ignore it and go ahead with the hearing.
Terming the letter as a "waste paper", Sorabjee said it should be thrown in the dustbin.
Rohtagi, who was there to open arguments on the review petition on behalf of Akhilesh, said that he had no problem in the case being heard by Justice Lakshmanan's Bench.
Maintaining that the Bar had full faith and confidence in him, Rohtagi suggested that the hearing may be deferred to Monday and the court could decide by that time whether to hear or send it to the CJI for constituting another Bench.
Later, Rohtagi mentioned it before a Bench headed by the CJI that agreed to Justice Lakshmanan's request for assigning it to another Bench for hearing on March 23.
The letter has since been handed over by Justice Lakshmanan to the CJI.
On a PIL filed by one Vishwanath Chaturvedi, the Justice Lakshmanan's Bench had on March 1 ordered a preliminary enquiry by the CBI into the allegations that Mulayam, his sons Akhilesh and Prateek and daughter-in-law Dimpal amassed assets disproportionate to their known sources of income by abusing their official position.
Later, the Bench had declined the Yadavs' plea for a modification in the order and advised them to file a proper review petition. However, on filing of the review petition by Akhilesh, an MP from Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh, it had agreed to hear it in an open court, unlike the usual norm of hearing of review petitions "by circulation" and "in chambers".