Supreme Court rejects plea seeking recusal of CJI in detention centre case
The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed an application, filed by retired bureaucrat Harsh Mander, seeking recusal of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi from hearing a case related to lack of amenities in Assam detention centres where 900-odd people have been locked up after being declared illegal migrants by foreigners’ tribunals.
Asserting that nobody can “browbeat the institution”, a bench led by CJI Gogoi also ordered deletion of Mander’s name as the petitioner in the matter and renamed the case as Supreme Court Legal Services Authority of India versus Union of India. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who was arguing for Mander, was appointed amicus curiae (friend of the court) and asked to render assistance in the matter.
Mander’s application said his petition had highlighted the inhuman conditions under which foreigners were forced to live in detention centres, but the bench had converted the matter into a case for deportation of thousands of people. He alluded to CJI Gogoi’s remarks that out of 1.08 lakh persons declared as foreigners by the tribunals, the Centre has deported only 4 persons in the last decade and allowed thousands to inter-mingle with the local population.
Mander was a member of the National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by Sonia Gandhi, during the UPA regime. NAC acted as the then government’s policy advisory body.
Reacting to Mander’s plea, CJI Gogoi remarked: “We are not for once thinking of recusal. Recusal is destruction of the institution. We are not recusing. We will not allow anybody to browbeat this institution.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for both the Centre and Assam government, called for necessary action against Mander, saying his action was “scandalous and contemptuous.” But the court refrained from proceeding against Mander and dismissed his application.
At the last hearing on April 25, Justice Gogoi had warned the Assam chief secretary with disciplinary action against the bureaucrat for filing an affidavit stating that all those persons living in detention centres could be released subject to their executing sureties and biometric details with the authorities.