The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that it will pronounce on October 23 its verdict on a request for the recusal of Justice Arun Mishra, from the bench hearing a plea to re-examine one of his own judgements on the 2013 Land Acquisition Act, Live Law reported. Mishra had on Tuesday refused to recuse himself from the case.

The Supreme Court’s announcement reserving its order in the case came after day-long arguments by advocates Shyam Divan, Gopal Sankaranarayanan and Rakesh Dwivedi, who argued for the petitioner. On the other hand, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand, and advocates Mohan Parasaran and Vivek Tankha opposed the plea.

Divan, in his submission, said that predisposition of a judge to hold a particular view gave rise to reasonable apprehension of bias, which was a sufficient condition for recusal.

However, Justice Mishra refused to consider the argument. “You want a bench of your choice, your formulations, those who may favour you,” he said. “This will destroy the independence of judiciary. This is bench hunting, nothing less. This is taming the judiciary.”

Divan said he had no intention of “bench hunting”. “There are principles that have to be applied here,” he said. “There is nothing remotely concerned with bench hunting. We are only drawing attention to certain internationally accepted standards.”

Tushar Mehta, countering Divan, submitted that prejudged bias should be demonstrated in order to make a case for recusal. He said that mere strong expression of the likely outcome of a case, due to the presence of a particular judge on the bench does not suffice to prove bias.

Following these arguments, the court said it will pronounce its verdict on October 23.

The case

On March 6, 2018, the top court had ruled that a larger bench would re-examine two judgements related to land acquisition that was delivered by two separate benches. Mishra had headed the three-judge bench, which also included Justices AK Goel (now retired) and Mohan M Shantanagoudar, that had passed one of these judgements last year. Another three-judge bench comprising former Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, Justices Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph – all of whom are retired now – had delivered the other ruling in 2014.

A five-judge Constitution Bench, led by Mishra and comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat, MR Shah, Vineet Saran, and Indira Banerjee, will now review the judgements to establish the correctness of the two conflicting decisions on the interpretation of Section 24 of the Land Acquisition Act, 2013.

On Tuesday, Justice Mishra had claimed that social media posts and news channel debates seeking his recusal are not against any particular individual, but malign the court.

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