Justice Arijit Pasayat, one of the senior most judges of the Supreme Court, on Monday recused himself from hearing a petition relating to Bangalore-Mysore Expressway as former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda made insinuation of bias against him, which the judge said was "baffling".
Gowda, through senior advocate Shanti Bhushan, had moved an application seeking withdrawal of Justice Pasayat from the matter saying there was "reasonable apprehension regarding likelihood of bias and want of impartiality on the basis of the relevant material in his (Gowda's) possession".
Though Justice Pasayat recused himself from hearing the matter, the Bench, also comprising Justice A K Ganguly expressed its unhappiness over Gowda's plea and termed it as "unfortunate".
"With a heavy heart, we direct the matter to be listed before any other bench which does not have Justice Pasayat, " the Bench said.
"It is unfortunate that such an application has been filed. There is no ground to show that it has any concern with the issue. The reason indicated why one of us will not hear the matter is baffling even because the application is filed and presented by a senior advocate (Shanti Bhushan)," the Bench said.
Pasayat regretted that the application was moved by a former Prime Minister when he had three months to retire. Pasayat's tenure ends on May 10, 2009.
"I am at the fag end of my career as judge and therefore if people do not have faith in me, I do not want to hear this matter," the judge said.
The Bench was hearing a petition filed by Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE) Ltd, the promoter of the project, challenging a decision of the Karnataka High Court to treat a letter written by Gowda, to judges of the High Court, as a PIL on the issue of alleged corruption in the project.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for NICE, expressed surprise over the grounds taken by Deve Gowda for transfer of the matter before another Bench.
The Janata Dal (S) chief alleged that NICE has been repeatedly making attempts to get all the petitions, filed by it by way of appeals against the decision of the High Court, be heard before the Bench headed by Pasayat.
The application referred to a plea made by NICE before the Registrar that the private company in another related matter had sought the transfer of the case from a Bench to another Bench headed by Pasayat last year on the ground that all matters involving the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) project were on board with Pasayat.
Gowda also raised questions about last week's order by a bench, headed by Pasayat, which had expressed displeasure over a letter sent by Gowda to the judges of the Karnataka High Court alleging corruption in the BMIC project and called as contemptuous a book on the subject circulated along with it.
It was reported that a similar letter was also written to an apex court judge.
The apex court on February 4 had said "It is unfortunate that such a letter has been written."
The court was unhappy that Deve Gowda's letter also accompanied a book titled "Bangalore Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (BMIC) Project: A Case Study in Fraud and Collusion to Defeat Ends of Justice", published by his party Janata Dal (S).
After treating the letter as PIL, the High Court on February 2 referred the matter to Lokayukta to probe allegations of corruption levelled by Deve Gowda in connection with the BMIC project.
The JD(S) chief last month wrote to the High Court Judges alleging that the project entrusted to NICE was riddled with irregularities and there was a "massive fraud worth more than Rs 30,000 crore".
Gowda, who has been opposing the project, released a booklet on January 5 alleging that NICE had committed a "fraud" involving thousands of crores of rupees.