16 Sep 2023 5:15 AM GMT
Justice Bharati Dangre of the Bombay High Court has recused from hearing a criminal revision application after she received a letter alleging bias but assigned reasons for her recusal and urged CBI action in a strongly worded order.“It was open for me to recuse, without disclosing the reason, but it is high time that some accountability is attributed to the disgruntled elements, who continue...
Justice Bharati Dangre of the Bombay High Court has recused from hearing a criminal revision application after she received a letter alleging bias but assigned reasons for her recusal and urged CBI action in a strongly worded order.
“It was open for me to recuse, without disclosing the reason, but it is high time that some accountability is attributed to the disgruntled elements, who continue to haunt the system by their unscrupulous acts and walk away, without waiting for consequences of their intimidating action, once the Judge recuse from the matter and it is time to show that the system to continue it’s unfinching loyalty to ‘Justice’.”
The judge took the letter on the record, ordered a copy to be sent to the Registrar and further urged the CBI to take cognisance of this “judicial impropriety” and conduct and an inquiry into the incident.
The judge noted that it wasn’t the first time “communications casting aspersions” have been addressed to the “dispensers of justice.” However, it was necessary to show people using such intimidation tactics that the system continues its unflinching loyalty to ‘Justice.’
“Recusal definitely cannot be used as a tool to manoeuvre justice, as a means of Bench hunting or Forum shopping, or as an instrument to evade judicial work,” the judge added.
Justice Dangre was seized with a criminal revision application filed by one Suresh Khemani accused in a CBI case for alleged excise fraud. The matter was placed before the judge for the first time in August after the earlier judge recused from the case.
Justice Dangre said she continued interim relief to the petitioner and kept the matter for hearing on September 14, 2023. Four days before the hearing the judge received a letter at her residence by one Hiten Thakkar from Vile Parle.
The letter stated how an earlier bench had recused from hearing the case and how Justice Dangre had continued interim relief illegally indicating monetary favours.
Justice Dangre noted that in the given situation she could either recuse herself from the matter in hand, or continue with same, ignoring the accusations of bias.
“A Judge may be impartial, but if a perception is carried by one party that he is not, then the recusal is the only option,” she said.
“Upon reading the letter, I may now lack the imperative requirement of being part of a “manifestly independent decision making process”, as Justice must not only be done, but it must be seem to be done. I should have a clear conscience that I am still ‘Independent’ and capable of discharging my duty in deciding the case, being uninfluenced by the communication addressed to me.
…..I deem it appropriate to recuse myself not because I have been asked to decide one way, but because I feel it necessary to do so, to avoid further accusations of favour being shown or if I have to dispel the accusations, necessarily I may be compelled to decide the other way, which may even mean injustice to one of the party.”
While Senior Advocate Aabad Ponda along with Advocate Nilesh Tribhuvan appearing for the accused said that contempt of court proceedings should be initiated against the sender of the letter, Justice Dangre said she would first wait for the CBI inquiry report before making any decision one way or another.
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