Published on: January 11, 2022

RECUSAL OF JUDGES

RECUSAL OF JUDGES

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Zavolzh’ye Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna of the Supreme Court recused themselves from hearing a dispute among the States of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka on the allocation of the Krishna river water.

WHY THE DECISION

  • Justice Chandrachud is from Maharashtra and Justice Bopanna hails from Karnataka.
  • Judges similarly placed like them — hailing from the States in dispute — had recused themselves from the case previously

WHY DOES A JUDGE RECUSE?

  • Prevent creating a perception that he carried a bias while deciding the case.
  • Nemo judex in causa sua – It means “nobody should be a judge in his/her own case” in Latin. It is a cardinal principle of due process of law.
  • Any interest or conflict of interest should be a ground to withdraw from a case since a judge has a duty to act fair.
  • Recusal during such situation leads to reliable, trustworthy judicial system.

SITUATIONS OF CONFLICT OF INTEREST

  • If a judge is holding shares in a company that is a litigant in the case being heard
  • If a judge is having/had a prior or personal association with a party involved in the case.
  • When an appeal is filed in the Supreme Court against a judgement of a High Court that may have been delivered by the SC judge when she was in the HC.

PROCESS

  • The decision to recuse generally comes from the judge herself
  • Rests on the conscience and discretion of the judge to disclose any potential conflict of interest.
  • In some circumstances, lawyers or parties in the case bring it up before the judge.
  • If a judge recuses, the case is listed before the Chief Justice for allotment to a fresh Bench.
  • There are no formal rules governing recusals
  • Previous Supreme Court judgment – Ranjit Thakur v Union of India, 1987

Do judges record reasons for recusal

  • Since there are no formal rules governing the process, it is often left to individual judges to record reasons for recusal.
  • Some judges disclose the reasons in open court; in some cases, the reasons are apparent.
  • In a landmark verdict in 2015 holding that the National Judicial Appointments Commission as unconstitutional, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Madan Lokur had referred to the need for judges to give reasons for recusal to build transparency and help frame rules to govern the process.