October 16, 2019

Supreme Court Judge Arun Mishra Criticizes Social Media Campaign Seeking His Recusal From Constitution Bench

[ By Bobby Anthony ]


Supreme Court judge Arun Mishra has expressed his anguish at a social media campaign as well as media reports against him, seeking his recusal from a constitution bench which is hearing pleas linked to compensation in the Land Acquisition Act.

Justice Mishra, who is heading a five-judge bench, referring to the social media posts as well as news reports, stated, “I am not biased. If I am satisfied that I am biased, then I can recuse myself from hearing this case”.

This issue cropped up while the Supreme Court heard several petitions challenging the validity of provisions related to compensation in the Land Acquisition Act.

Justice Mishra expressed his unhappiness about the repetitive use of “impartial” by parties involved in the hearing seeking his recusal, and insisted that he would sacrifice himself if the integrity of the institution is at stake.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing some farmer associations and individuals, had registered an objection about Justice Mishra hearing the matter and sought his recusal citing judicial propriety. Divan told the court that the bench would have to look into the verdict which Justice Mishra had authored.

Justice Mishra was part of the verdict in February 2018, which held that acquisition of the land by a government agency cannot be overturned, if there was delay by land owners who fail to accept compensation within five years, citing pending court cases.

In 2014, another verdict had ruled the land acquisition can be overturned if there is delay in accepting the compensation awarded against the acquisition. In March 2018, the Supreme Court had said that a larger bench would look into the verdicts.

Divan told the bench that Justice Mishra had expressed his opinion in a more than 100-page judgment and opined other view taken by another bench is bad in law. Therefore, a judge cannot sit over appeal of his past verdict.

However Justice Mishra stated that it is not the appeal against the verdict in which he was the party, and if persuaded, he may change or correct his view.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the central government stated, “The prayer is not for undermining a single judge but the entire constitution bench. The publication articles or content on social media, there is a pattern wherein two days before important matters these things appear. It intended to influence the hearing. Nobody takes social media seriously but this pattern is serious”.

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