SC rejects sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s plea seeking judge’s recusal

New Delhi, May 10 : The Supreme Court on Wednesday junked a plea by sacked IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt to submit additional evidence supporting his appeal in the Gujarat High Court against his conviction in a custodial death case.

It also rejected Bhatt’s plea for recusal of a judge from hearing a matter.

A bench of Justices M.R. Shah and C.T. Ravikumar said it was not inclined to interfere with the high court order. “Having gone through the impugned order passed by the High Court, we see no reason to interfere with the same in exercise of powers under Article 136 of the Constitution. Any observations by this court on the deposition of the aforesaid 3 witnesses (doctors) may ultimately affect the case of either party in the appeal, which is yet to be considered by the high court. Therefore, the special leave petition stands dismissed,” said the bench, in its order.

“However, it is observed that the high court to finally decide and dispose of the appeal strictly in accordance with law and on merits and on re-appreciation of the entire evidence on record which were considered by the trial court and without in any way influenced by any of the observations made by the high court in the impugned order so far as the cause of death is concerned and any observations made by the high court in the impugned order shall be confined to deciding the application under Section 391 Cr.P.C. only,” it said.

The apex court also rejected Bhatt’s plea seeking recusal of Justice Shah from hearing the matter.

On Tuesday, Bhatt’s counsel had submitted that there was a reasonable apprehension of bias as Justice Shah, as a high court judge, had castigated the petitioner while hearing his plea linked to the same FIR. The Gujarat government counsel and complainant’s counsel opposed this contention and termed it forum shopping.

The top court said: “We are of the opinion that the request of recusal is nothing but an attempt to indulge in forum shopping and bench hunting and to avoid the bench with mala fide intention. It is to be noted that earlier the bench headed by one of us heard the special leave petition in a case relating to the very FIR and filed by the very petitioner and at that point of time, no such objection was raised and no such prayer was made.”

The bench said merely because some proceedings might have been heard by one of us before the high court in connection with the present matter and/or proceedings and some observations might have been made against the petitioner on the delaying tactics, cannot be a ground to accede to the request made by the petitioner.

Senior advocate Maninder Singh represented the Gujarat government and senior counsel A.N.S. Nadkarni represented the original complainant.

A Jamnagar court awarded life term to Bhatt after he was held guilty on June 20, 2019 in a three-decade old custodial death case.


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