Justice Arun Mishra took strong exception to reports that he should exit Constitution bench

New Delhi: 

Supreme Court judge Arun Mishra will not withdraw from hearing a case related to the Land Acquisition Act after questions were raised because he is heading a bench examining his own past ruling. A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Mishra today decided he won’t recuse himself.

“I am not recusing from hearing this matter,” a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Mishra said.

Last week, Justice Mishra took strong exception to social media posts and news reports suggesting he should exit the Constitution bench examining issues related to the Land Acquisition Act, on which he had delivered a judgement.

Justice Mishra said the social media posts and articles were not just against a particular judge but an attempt to malign the institution.

Some of the petitioners, including a farmers’ association, had asked that Justice Mishra recuse himself on grounds of judicial propriety, saying that the Constitution bench is examining a verdict that he had authored.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for some of the petitioners said since the presiding judge of the five-judge Constitution bench is a signatory of the verdict being examined, there could be an element of impartiality.

The judge said he was “hurt” and “insulted” by the use of the word “impartiality”.

On March 6 last year, the Supreme Court had said that a larger bench would assess two separate verdicts related to land acquisition, delivered by two benches of similar strength, which had snowballed into a major controversy.

“I will be the first person to sacrifice if the integrity of institution is at stake. I am not biased and don’t get influenced by anything on Earth. If I am satisfied that I am biased, only then will I recuse myself from hearing this case,” Justice Mishra said.

He asked petitioners to give him a satisfactory reason for him to recuse himself.

“I may be criticised for my view, I may not be a hero and I may be a blemished person but if I am satisfied that my conscience is clear, my integrity is clear before God, I will not budge. If I think I will be influenced by any extraneous factor, I will be the first to recuse here,” he said.

Justice Mishra added that the “question is can we not sit in the Constitution bench though it is us who referred the matter to the larger bench. It is not an appeal against the verdict in which I was party. I may change or correct my view, if persuaded”.

Justice Mishra was part of the bench that ruled that land acquisition by a government agency cannot be cancelled if owners delay accepting compensation within five years due to reasons such as lingering court cases.

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