Bombay HC Justice Recuses herself from Case Amid Allegations of Bias Calls for CBI Inquiry

LI Network

Published on: 16 September 2023 at 12:32 IST

Justice Bharati Dangre of the Bombay High Court has taken the extraordinary step of recusing herself from a case [Suresh Kevalram Khemani & Ors. v. Central Bureau of Investigation & Ors.] after receiving a letter alleging bias on her part.

In a significant move, she has called for an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to ascertain the authenticity and identity of the letter’s sender.

In a five-page order explaining her recusal, Justice Dangre emphasized the need for accountability in situations where individuals attempt to intimidate judges and then evade consequences by forcing recusals.

“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,” Justice Dangre stated in her order, underlining the importance of maintaining the integrity of the judicial process.

Justice Dangre elaborated that upon reviewing the letter, she realized that she could not ensure her participation in a “manifestly independent decision-making process.”

“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,” she added.

The case in question involved a revision application filed in 2021 where the CBI was investigating the matter. Justice Dangre directed the High Court registry to provide a copy of the letter to advocate Kuldeep Patil, who represents the CBI. Patil will submit the letter to the CBI’s Mumbai headquarters for a thorough inquiry.

“CBI counsel will bring it to the notice of the headquarters at Mumbai with an expectation that CBI shall take cognizance of this judicial impropriety by conducting a necessary inquiry into the same, as the sender has disclosed his name and address on the envelope, as well as in the communication,” the Court ordered.

Justice Dangre clarified that her decision to recuse was not based on external pressure to rule a certain way but rather to avoid any perception of favoritism.

“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 favor 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 parties,” she explained.

The judge pointed out that such communications casting aspersions on judges were not a novel occurrence and cautioned against using recusals as a means of manipulating the judicial process.

“Recusal definitely cannot be used as a tool to maneuver justice, as a means of ‘bench hunting’ or ‘forum shopping,’ or as an instrument to evade judicial work,” Justice Dangre emphasized.

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