New Delhi: At a time when Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and the Supreme Court is besieged with controversies, Gogoi asked a litigant Thursday to trust the judges and not damage the institution.
Gogoi refused to recuse himself from hearing a case raised by litigant Harsh Mander on the detention and deportation of declared foreigners in Assam.
Mander, an activist, pleaded that Gogoi step away from hearing his plea, seeking to end indefinite detention, because of “subconscious bias”.
CJI Gogoi, during a previous hearing on the issue, had lashed out at the Assam government’s proposed move to conditionally release declared foreigners languishing in its detention centres for over five years.
“Learn to trust your judges. The day you don’t, I’ve had it. See what damage you have done to the institution,” Gogoi said, dismissing Mander’s plea.
“All we would like to say is that the inability/difficulty of a judge to hear the matter should be by the judge himself and not the litigant,” added Gogoi.
The three-judge bench — which comprised Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna — then struck off Mander’s name as the main petitioner and appointed his counsel Prashant Bhushan as the Amicus Curiae “to agitate the issues in this matter”.
‘My plea was turned on its head’
The hearing saw a lot of drama.
Mander submitted that his plea was not being accepted by the registry and so he was compelled to file it before the judges. To this, the CJI said, “We will accept your application. But this is not a filing counter.”
Mander then went on to submit his apprehensions and reasons for seeking Gogoi’s recusal. His primary concern was that his petition, which sought to seek human rights for those detained in detention camps in Assam, was being turned on its head.
Referring to the CJI’s observation made during the previous hearing on this issue where he pulled up Assam’s chief secretary for the state government’s proposed move to conditionally release foreigners, Mander said those oral observations had a deep impact on the ground that resulted in fear and more arrests.
“My petition for release of detenues has been converted to more people being deported and detained. Arrests have started. There is an atmosphere of fear,” Mander submitted.
“The plea sought the release of those detained, despite the conditions imposed. But it was turned into more people being detained and forcefully deported,” he said. “Subconscious bias if there is, it’s better if another judge hears this.”
The CJI took umbrage to Mander’s lengthy submission. “What if we say you have been set up by Assam government to file this application?” Gogoi asked Mandar.
“You are perhaps unaware of the entire situation and that’s why we don’t allow lay people to get into proceedings. When a court debate takes place, a judge says a lot of things. What is said in a debate was taken by you for an opinion. You are quoting from sentences you may have read somewhere. Did you go by the written orders? How can you form an opinion that we have pre-judged the matter. Is this how you serve the country,” Gogoi said.
“You wouldn’t know the real issues involved. Your anxiety is the violations of human rights. The chief secretary knows what’s really happening. Is this how real proceedings must go on? A litigant questions the impartiality of the judge,” CJI said.
The previous hearing
At the previous hearing on 26 April, the apex court had lashed out at the Assam government over its proposal to conditionally release and monitor those declared foreigners who have been lodged in detention camps for over five years. The court had said that it would not be party to such a move, which is both illegal and violative of the Constitution.
The CJI had also added that the Assam government’s proposed measure reflected its failure to deport declared foreigners.