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Delhi-Centre turf war jinxed, suffers second SC judge recusal • Re-raises questions on policy

The Delhi-Centre turf war case, titled Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi vs Union of India, which was listed as item 45 at court no 2, after Justice Khehar-Arun Mishra bench recused from hearing it yesterday, suffered another phase of uncertainty this morning. At the mentioning time at Court No.2, one of the Judges on the bench at court No 2, Justice L Nageswara Rao recused himself from hearing the case for undisclosed reasons.

As a result, the case appears to be ‘jinxed’ as of now, with no fresh date being given for the hearing, and the identity of the new bench which may hear it also remaining a mystery.

Observers note that not much should be read into the registry’s failure to list the suit, filed by the Delhi Government under Article 131 of the Constitution, along with the SLPs which were listed today. Suits under Article 131 follow a different procedure altogether, with the registry first issuing notices to the parties concerned, and waiting for their replies, before listing the suit.

As this process in the case of Delhi’s suit against the Centre under Article 131 is still incomplete, Indira Jaising’s plea to list it along with the SLPs against the Delhi high court’s imminent judgment in the turf war case, has not been acceded to, it has been pointed out.

Repeated recusals by successive judges from hearing the case, have also led to concern about lack of transparent guidelines on when a judge can recuse from hearing a case, and whether a recusing judge ought to disclose reasons for recusal.

In the NJAC case heard by the Constitution bench, Justice Kurian Joseph, in his concurrent opinion, had raised the recusal issue, and subscribed to the view that the recusing Judges must disclose reasons for the recusal.

However, his view has not found any takers by Judges who subsequently recused themselves.

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