Monday, September 26, 2022

Allahabad High Court refuses transfer plea over judge’s alleged bias, says no valid reason for it

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The Allahabad High Court has refused to allow an application seeking transfer of a Hindu Marriage petition from the Court of Additional Principal Judge, Family Court, Firozabad, questioning the fairness and impartiality of the orders passed by the APJ in the case.

A Single Bench of Justice J.J. Munir passed this order on October 5, while hearing a transfer application filed by Neha Bhardawaj, seeking transfer of petition in the case of Pankaj Bhardwaj vs Neha Bhardwaj from the Additional Principal Judge, Family Court, Firozabad.

The ground of transfer urged in support of the application was a doubt in the mind of the applicant regarding the fairness and impartiality of the Presiding Officer in the Court of Additional Principal Judge, Family Court, Firozabad. This doubt the applicant has harboured on account of the course of proceedings before the Judge and orders that he has passed. It is from the Additional Principal Judge, Family Court orders that are castigated as erroneous, the applicant inferred doubts about the fairness of the Additional Principal Judge.

It was pointed out that issues were framed on December 11, 2017 and after framing of issues, the respondent filed an application to admit certain documents, which could not be filed after framing of issues.

Since the application was not served upon the applicant, she moved a plea to the Court, seeking a direction to serve her with a copy of the documents. The said application was rejected by the Presiding Officer order dated January 25, 2018.

Subsequently, a petition under Article 227 of the Constitution was preferred to the Court, where the respondent was directed to provide all documents to the applicant.

The Counsel for the applicant drew the attention of the Court to the order dated February 21, 2018, which showed that it was provided that in case the respondent makes the requisite document available to the petitioner, the proceedings of the petition would continue unhampered and in case the documents are not supplied within a week of filing a fresh application, as permitted by the Court, the proceedings of the suit shall remain stayed till the next date of listing.

It was submitted that this position came to pass on account of inaction of the Presiding Officer in failing to direct the respondent to provide a copy of necessary documents. It was then pointed out that proceedings before the Trial Court went ahead and evidence of parties was recorded. The proceedings were interrupted on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was also asserted that on July 26, 2021, the Counsel appearing for parties were present and the next date fixed was August 3. On the date last mentioned, members of the Bar abstained from judicial work, but the Family Court granted a last opportunity to the applicant to lead her evidence, scheduling the cause for August 11.

On August 11, opportunity of leading evidence was closed and the case was set down for address of arguments. The applicant said she was surprised at the harsh behaviour of the Presiding Officer towards her.

It was also asserted on the strength of averments the affidavit that on an application moved to consolidate Hindu Marriage Petition under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, the Court did not pass any orders and proceeded to close opportunity to lead evidence.

A transfer application moved to the Principal Judge, Family Court was rejected on September 1, 2021.

“Whatever has been urged to infer that the Presiding Officer of the Family Court is biased, is in the realm of conjecture and a manifestation of the general attitude of disrespect towards the Court, that appears to be fostered on ill-found notions,” the court observed.

The Court stated that merely because the Court proceeds with a case expeditiously or turns down a motion interlocutory illegally, it does not mean that the Court is biased against a particular litigant.

“In this case, if the transfer application were allowed, the Court would be inferring a bias against the Presiding Officer or at least, approving of a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the applicant about bias, without there being a shred of evidence to show any kind of a bias inferable from circumstances of any consequence. Adverse orders are no basis to infer personal bias of a Judge. If this ground were to be permitted, the wheels of justice would come to a standstill.

The Court does not find any good ground to permit the transfer that the applicant seeks”, the Court said while rejecting the application.

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