Judge Can Recuse From A Case At His Own Volition, But Not At the Mere Asking Of Litigant: SC [Read Order]
"Recusal, at the asking of the litigating party, cannot be countenanced unless it deserves due consideration and is justified."
While rejecting a prayer seeking recusal of a judge who is part of the bench hearing an appeal, the Supreme Court observed that a judge can recuse at his own volition, but need not at the mere asking of a litigating party.
The bench comprising of Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Ajay Rastogi were considering an appeal filed by Seema Sapra against the Delhi High Court judgment holding her guilty of having committed contempt of Court. The High Court had imposed a punishment of imprisonment for a period of one month with a further direction restraining her to argue as an advocate or in-person, except in her defence, before any Bench of the High Court of Delhi or any Court or Tribunal subordinate to the High Court for a period of two years from the date of passing of the judgment.
Before the Supreme Court bench hearing the appeal, a submission was made by Seema Sapra that she may not get justice from the Bench as Justice Khanwilkar is well acquainted with the Advocates who incidentally are members of the Supreme Court Bar Association against whom personal allegations have been made by her in the accompanying writ petition.
Observing that these allegations are without substance and lacking merit, the bench observed:
Indubitably, it is always open for a Judge to recuse at his own volition from a case entrusted to him by the Chief Justice. But, that may be a matter of his own choosing. Recusal, at the asking of the litigating party, cannot be countenanced unless it deserves due consideration and is justified. We draw support from the exposition of the Constitution Bench in Supreme Court Advocates-On-Record Association and Another Vs. Union of India. It must never be forgotten that an impartial Judge is the quintessence for a fair trial and one should not hesitate to recuse if there are just and reasonable grounds. At the same time, one cannot be oblivious of the duty of a Judge which is to discharge his responsibility with absolute earnestness, sincerity and being true to the oath of his/her office.
The bench, however, proceeded to admit the appeal and stayed the effect of the High Court judgment.