15 Sep 2023 3:48 AM GMT
While rejecting a request for recusal made by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption and the TN Minister K Ponmudi, Justice Anand Venkatesh noted that as per settled law, a plea of bias could not be raised by a party that would be a beneficiary of such bias. In the previous hearing, Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the DVAC had submitted that...
While rejecting a request for recusal made by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption and the TN Minister K Ponmudi, Justice Anand Venkatesh noted that as per settled law, a plea of bias could not be raised by a party that would be a beneficiary of such bias.
In the previous hearing, Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the DVAC had submitted that Justice Venkatesh had predetermined certain issues thereby revealing an element of bias, and had thus requested the Judge to recuse himself from hearing the matter in the fitness of things.
Finding this to be a ‘strange plea’ on the part of the State, the Judge noted that the State, being the aggrieved person against the order of acquittal of the Minister would be a direct beneficiary following the apprehension that the order of acquittal would be set aside. Thus, the court noted that the plea of bias could only be raised at the instance of the person who was likely to suffer an adverse adjudication and thus, the State could not raise such a plea for seeking recusal.
“As the risk of repetition, assuming that the order of acquittal passed by the Special Court is to be set aside, the State would be a direct beneficiary for it would be achieving the same result that it would achieve by filing an appeal. It is, therefore, very strange and curious that the State must allege bias especially since it claims to be a person aggrieved against the orders of the Special Court, and is contemplating filing an appeal under Section 378 Cr.P.C. It is, therefore, a mystery as to why the mighty State is shooting a plea of bias at this Court from the shoulders of the accused. For the aforesaid reasons, the plea of bias alleged by the State must be rejected as completely misconceived,” the court said.
Though Senior Advocate NR Elango, appearing for the Minister also raised an allegation of bias, the court noted that the same was primarily related to bias vis-à-vis administrative adjudication. The court noted that the earlier order made in the case was not an “order” made under Section 401 CrPC but was merely setting out the reasons for taking up the suo motu revision. The court added that merely expressing strong views in the preliminary stage did not amount to bias.
Another challenge that was raised by the DVAC while seeking recusal was that the State was still contemplating filing an appeal (given that the limitation has not expired) and thus, the suo motu revision had thwarted the Stat’s right of appeal.
To this, the court observed that even if the State was to appeal against an order of acquittal, the exercise of suo motu power would only benefit the State and would not subvert its purpose.
“if the State was aggrieved by the judgment of acquittal passed by the Special Court, as they claim to be, the subsequent exercise of its right of appeal under Section 378 Cr.P.C cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be at variance or cross purposes with the exercise of suo motu power by the High Court under Section 397 Cr.P.C. This is because if the State is actually aggrieved by the order of the Special Court, the exercise of suo motu power by the High Court under Section 397 Cr.P.C would actually support the stand of the State and subserve the same purpose,” the court observed.
The next contention raised by DVAC was that no order could be passed under Section 401 (2) CrPC to the prejudice of the accused without granting an opportunity for hearing. The court however noted that this could not operate at the stage of calling for records and that the earlier order made by the Court was not an order “under the section”.
“Thus, by passing the order dated 10.08.2023 this Court has not exercised any of the appellate powers enumerated under Section 401(1) Cr.PC nor has it set aside the order dated 28.06.2023 passed by the Principal District Judge, Vellore (Designated Special Court) passed in Special S.C.No. 3 of 2022 so as to attract Section 401(2) Cr.PC,” the court said.
The final contention made by the DVAC was that the administrative side of the High Court also be made a party to the suit since the court had observed that the order of transfer was ex-facie illegal. The court however found it strange that the DVAC and the Accused were holding candles for the Administrative side of the High Court when the Administrative side itself had not approached the court requesting to be heard in the matter.
“This contention need not detain us for long since the Administrative Side is not before this Court complaining or requesting that it be heard in the matter. It is rather strange that DVAC or the accused should be holding candles for the Administrative Side of the High Court which is perfectly capable of defending itself if the need so arises. This contention also fails and is consequently rejected,” the court said.
Thus, rejecting all the preliminary contentions raised by the State and the accused, the court said that it would take the matter up for hearing.
The court also emphasised that the suo motu revisions that were recently being taken up were not at the instance of a single judge but rather an exercise undertaken by the High Court, as an institution, to ensure that the streams of criminal justice are not subverted and remain pure and unsullied.
“The orders of the High Court resonate the voice of not any individual judge but one institution. In other words, decision-making by the High Court is an institutional action and not the action of any particular judge. This is in keeping with the role of the High Court as a constitutional court vested with the power of judicial and administrative superintendence over the courts subordinate to it,” the court added.
Case Title: Suo Motu v State and Others
Case No: Suo Motu Crl RC No. 1419 of 2023