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SC says will not allow anybody to browbeat or damage the institution

twitter-logoPTI | May 2, 2019 | Updated 19:03 IST

New Delhi, May 2 (PTI) The Supreme Court Thursday gave a dressing down to activist Harsh Mander for seeking recusal of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi in a sensitive matter by saying it would not allow anybody to "browbeat" and "damage the institution". Mander, who has alleged bias on the part of the CJI in hearing a matter related to detention of illegal foreigners in Assam, was told by the apex court that it would not allow the institution to "crumble". In further embarrassment for Mander, the CJI, who refused to recuse himself from hearing the matter, struck off his name from cause title as petitioner and replaced it with Supreme Court Legal Services Authority versus Union of India and others. The strategy by Mander to argue the matter himself by discharging his activist advocate Prashant Bhushan boomeranged as the apex court asked Bhushan to assist it as amicus curiae. There was further surprise in store for Bhushan as the bench made it clear that his role in assisting the court will be limited to the issue of conditions prevailing at detention centres in Assam and not on the ones like deportation of foreigners. In the order, the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, clearly stated, "All that we would like to say is that the inability/difficulty/ handicap of a judge to hear a matter should be perceived by the judge himself and not by the litigant and the ground for seeking recusal of the CJI from the bench have enormous potential of causing damage to the institution". However, thrust of the hearing which lasted for around 40 minutes witnessed Mander getting severely reprimanded by the bench for his averments that statements made by the judges of the apex court have a "ripple effect" not just within the judiciary but amongst the public at large. "Is this how you serve the country? By levelling bias? Learn to trust your judges. The day you do not trust your judges, you had it. See what damage you have done to the institution," the bench said orally during the hearing. "Is this how you behave Mr Mander? Is this how you come to the court? A litigant questioning the intent of the Chief Justice? You are doing good work in your field of human rights and its violations. But this is not the way how you serve the country. Tell us, is this fair to the institution?," the CJI said while expressing his anguish over Mander's casting aspersions on him. The bench expressed displeasure against Mander for filing an application for recusal of the CJI in which he alleged that Justice Gogoi has "pre-judged" the outcome of case and the CJI, in his sub-conscious bias, made certain oral observations during last hearings. "So when the court is agreeing with you, it is okay. But we do not agree with you, you start levelling allegations of bias. This is completely unacceptable," the bench said. The CJI and the two judges drew the attention of Mander to the various orders passed by the court in the matter and told him, "How can you ever form an opinion that the court has already decided the matter and you can seek the recusal of CJI just on the basis of observations made during the hearing". "Is this the way the court function Mr Mander? That is why you should not argue the matter yourself and would have left it to your lawyer," the bench said, adding, "See what damage you have done to the institution". The bench said, "You are perhaps unaware about this and that is why we do not encourage layman to argue. When a whole debate takes place, a judge make several observations. What is said during the course of debate, you are thinking that it is our judicial mind. Judges express their mind through the orders. Turn to our orders, read it." The bench also sought to know from Mander as to how he was aware of the observations of the court since he was not present in the courtroom during previous hearings. When he said he had read the news about the court proceedings in a legal newsportal and a newspaper, the bench shot back, "You are taking it from social media. You are taking something from social media and throwing it to the CJI and allege bias?". When Mander said he did not intend to show disrespect to the judges, the bench said, "Respect to judges is shown by your acts and expressions and not by your words." "What happens if the institution crumbles? Where will you be?," the bench said, adding that while hearing a matter, a judge makes up his mind but it can change till the time order is passed. "Even before the ink dries up, we also do review of our orders. We make mistakes, off course we do. But we also correct it in review and curative," the CJI told Mander. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said contents in Mander's plea were "not only scandalous" but also "contemptuous". "It is nothing but forum shopping and this is not a recusal but contemptuous application," Mehta said, adding, "In the name of public interest, they just come, stand up and spit venom on anybody they want". When Mehta said he was opposing the application for recusal, the CJI said, "What? Do not even think we will recuse. Some people remotely think that we will recuse just on allegations of bias. Recusal is destruction of institution. We are only discussing what else can we do. We will not allow anybody to browbeat the institution." "Is he coming here for justice or delivering lecture on what judges should do and what they should not do?," Mehta said. The bench, which concluded the hearing by dealing with Mander's recusal application, said that the main issue would be heard on May 9. PTI RKS ABA MNL SA

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