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Monday, Nov 18, 2019

No need to recuse, rules Supreme Court on demand that judge step away from case

Farmland owners had opposed justice Mishra heading the five-judge bench because he had authored one of the two judgements that has been referred to the constitution bench to determine its correctness.

india Updated: Oct 23, 2019 11:15 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
A senior judge of the Supreme Court who is heading the constitution bench hearing petitions on the law acquisition law, will not recuse from the case, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.
A senior judge of the Supreme Court who is heading the constitution bench hearing petitions on the law acquisition law, will not recuse from the case, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.(Sunil Saxena/HT File Photo)
         

Justice Arun Mishra, a senior judge of the Supreme Court who is heading the constitution bench hearing petitions on the law acquisition law, will not recuse from the case, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

Farmland owners had opposed justice Mishra heading the five-judge bench because he had authored one of the two judgements that has been referred to the constitution bench to determine its correctness. Senior lawyer Shyam Divan, appearing for some farmer associations and individuals, had argued that the judge had expressed his mind stressed “that a judge cannot sit in appeal of his own judgement”.

In the course of preliminary hearings, the judge had rejected this argument, underscoring that he was “not biased and would not get influenced by anything on earth”.

“I will be the first person to sacrifice if the integrity of the institution is at stake,’’ Mishra, who is heading the five-judge bench, had said during the hearing. But when lawyers of the farmland owners insisted that the court take a call, the bench had agreed to first decide this demand.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the five judges decided that there was no need for Justice Mishra to step away from the case.

Justice Mishra heads the constitution bench formed to end the stalemate over interpretation of section 24 of the Land Acquisition Act that involves fair compensation to landowners whose property is acquired by the state for public purposes and return of the land in case it is not utilized for the acquired purpose.

Justice Mishra was a part of a bench that ruled in February last year that land acquisition by a government agency could not be quashed for the delay on the part of landowners in accepting compensation within five years due to reasons like lingering court cases.

In 2014, another verdict had held that land acquisition can be quashed on account of the delay in accepting the compensation. The top court had decided to set up the constitution bench in March last year to test the correctness of the verdicts delivered by these two benches of similar strength on the same issue.