The Supreme Court today took strong exception to a request seeking recusal of a judge from hearing a case in which a former law intern had made sexual harassment allegations against Justice Swatanter Kumar, a former judge of the court.
The former intern, through senior advocate Indira Jaisingh, had sought Justice A M Khanwilkar’s recusal on the ground that he had shared the bench with Justice Kumar in Bombay High Court.
Justice Kurian Joseph, who was heading the bench along with Justice Khanwilkar, said that it will be difficult for a sitting judge to function if recusal from a matter is sought on the ground that a judge had shared a bench once with other judges.
On his part, Justice Khanwilkar, said, “Yes I had the occasion to share the bench with him (Justice Swatanter Kumar) when he was Chief Justice of Bombay High Court. My recusal from the bench depends on how serious are the objections because it will be my personal decision.”
The bench, however, granted liberty to the former intern’s counsel to mention the matter before Chief Justice J S Khehar for constitution of appropriate bench.
Justice Kumar, who is currently heading the National Green Tribunal, has described the allegations as “incredulous and false” and “some kind of conspiracy”.
Jaising said that the transfer petition has been filed by the alleged victim for shifting of the main case from Delhi High Court to any other High Court where Justice Kumar, who has not served. Justice Kumar is at present serving as chairperson of National Green Tribunal (NGT).
She said that since the very object of the transfer petition is to ensure that the proceedings are not affected by any kind of bias, the purpose of transfer plea will be defeated if Justice Khanwilkar hears the matter.
Jaising sought permission of the bench to mention the matter before Chief Justice to take a decision on her objections.
“You mention the matter before Chief Justice. No order as of now,” the bench said.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta also objected to the submissions of Jaising and said that the projections made against Justice Khanwilkar were not appropriate and the matter be decided by the bench itself.