Saturday, September 30, 2023

Justice MR Shah refuses to recuse from hearing Sanjiv Bhatt plea in custodial death case

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the plea filed by former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt seeking recusal of Justice M.R. Shah from hearing the custodial death case registered against Bhatt in 1990.

A Bench comprising Justice MR Shah and Justice CT Ravikumar further refused permission to the former Gujarat-cadre IPS officer to produce additional evidence before the Gujarat High Court in his appeal against conviction in a custodial death case.

The order was reserved yesterday on the plea seeking Justice Shah’s recusal.

Senior Advocate Devadatt Kamat, who appeared for Bhatt, asked Justice Shah to recuse from hearing the case as he was the one who had passed strictures against Bhatt while hearing his petitions arising out of the same FIR as a judge of the Gujarat High Court.

Advocate Kamat put his point stating that matter is not whether the judge is actually biased but that he may have apprehension which may lead to bias.

Advocate Kamat said that Justice is not only to be done, but also to be seen done and the judicial propriety demands that Justice Shah may not hear this matter in case of Sanjiv Bhatt

Kamat also pointed out the colleague of Justice Shah in the bench, Justice CT Ravikumar, had recused from hearing the SNC-Lavlin case on the ground that he had dealt with the matter as a judge of the Kerala High Court.

Justice Shah, as a judge of the Gujarat High Court, had observed that there was an attempt to delay the trial by Bhatt,while dealing with his discharge petition. In the present matter as well, where Bhatt is seeking to produce additional evidence, the allegation is that he is attempting to delay the hearing.Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the State of Gujarat, opposed the plea for recusal.

He said that several other cases of Bhatt have been dealt with by Justice Shah and in none of those cases, a plea for recusal was made. One cannot seek recusal selectively, the senior counsel said.

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