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Even If Judge's Wife Is Distantly Related To One Of The Petitioners, This Nowhere Implies That Such Judge Is Prejudiced: Himachal Pradesh High Court

Sparsh Upadhyay
11 March 2021 8:08 AM GMT
Even If Judges Wife Is Distantly Related To One Of The Petitioners, This Nowhere Implies That Such Judge Is Prejudiced: Himachal Pradesh High Court
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Underlining that even if the wife of a Judge is distantly related to one of the petitioners, this nowhere implies that such Judge is prejudiced, the Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday (08th March) dismissed a plea seeking a declaration of a sitting Judge's dissenting view as Coram non-judice and non est in the eyes of law. The Bench of Justice Anoop Chitkara was hearing the pla...

Underlining that even if the wife of a Judge is distantly related to one of the petitioners, this nowhere implies that such Judge is prejudiced, the Himachal Pradesh High Court on Monday (08th March) dismissed a plea seeking a declaration of a sitting Judge's dissenting view as Coram non-judice and non est in the eyes of law.

The Bench of Justice Anoop Chitkara was hearing the pla of private respondents who alleged before the Court that wife of the Justice Sureshwar Thakur (who gave the dissenting pronouncement in a particular Judgment) is related to the wife of one of the Appellants and thus, the judgment in LPA 33 and 39 of 2019 is non est as being coram non-judice.

The matter in brief

The private respondents filed this plea seeking directions qua the judgment passed by Justice Sureshwar Thakur, who pronounced a dissenting verdict in a Letters Patent Appeals, and decided in favor of the petitioners.

It was prayed that the LPA 33 and 39 of 2019 be remitted to the Hon'ble Chief Justice for the constitution of a Division Bench for hearing the LPA afresh in the interest of justice and Fairplay.

It was argued that the allegations pointed out in the application establish bias and thus, the application deserved acceptance.

It was also argued that the applicants have a reasonable apprehension of bias, which attracts the doctrine of prejudice and that the be brought to the notice of Hon'ble Mr. Justice Sureshwar Thakur to seek his response about the correctness of facts.

It was contended that if Justice Sureshwar Thakur denies the relationship, then this application on the sole ground of denial would come to an end, however, if he accepts the relationship, he should withdraw the judgment authored by him.

Lastly, it was stated that the existence of the relationship itself establishes bias and whenever such knowledge comes on record, irrespective of the time of acquiring this knowledge, the judgment, in question, has to be withdrawn by the concerned Judge

Court's observations

At the outset, the Court noted that the application didn't mention the name and other particulars of the person, from whom the deponent had received such information, and so, the Court observed that in the absence of such material information, the applicants fail to make a prima facie case worth issuing notices.

Also, the Court posed a question that if the applicants knew of the relationship before the hearing, then the bigger question is: Were the applicants waiting for the verdict's outcome?

"The only thing which is stated is that they came to know of such relationship only after the pronouncement of the verdict. They should have mentioned the reasons for fishing an inquiry, the time of information, the source, the motive behind furnishing information, if it was given without any efforts from the applicants' side, etc", remarked the Court.

Significantly, the Court further noted that in the fast-changing present times, there is no presumption that relatives carry good relationships and that fiven the demanding nature of jobs and urban life fatigue, the frequency of interactions with relatives is gradually declining.

Moving ahead, the Court also remarked that the pin-drop silence about the context due to which one or more of the respondents-applicants launched such probe or fishing inquiry to find out about the relationship is pricking this Court's conscience.

Significantly, the Court held,

"Suffice it to say that even if the wife of the said Hon'ble Judge is distantly related to one of the petitioners, this nowhere implies that such Judge is prejudiced, unless the bias with all material particulars, is shown in the allegations, that too within a reasonable time. Based on this, issuing notice would be flogging a dead horse."

Lastly, noting that the allegations leveled in the application are unsubstantiated, general, withhold material particulars, and prima facie fail to show discrimination or bias or even likelihood of bias, the Court dismissed the application calling it baseless and without any merits.

In related news, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud in December 2020 recused from a matter on the ground that the advocate appearing happened to be a relative.

An appeal under section 130 E of Customs Act, 1962 had come upon the docket before a bench of Justices D. Y. Chandrachud and M. R. Shah.

"You should not take up briefs which are before me. Let it go to some other bench", said Justice Chandrachud.

Also, in August 2020, CJI SA Bobde had recused himself from hearing Andhra Pradesh Government's plea against the interim stay order passed by the High Court on the formation of three capital cities in the State.

As the Special Leave Petition came up for consideration before the Bench, which also comprised of Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar pointed out that the CJI's daughter had appeared for one of the parties during proceedings before the High Court.

Case title - Rajeev Bhardwaj v. State of H.P. & Others [CMP No.877 of 2021 in LPA No. 33 of 2019]

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