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While recusing Justice Sharma ordered, “List this matter before another bench, subject to taking necessary orders of the Hon'ble the Chief Justice on Monday i.e. April 24.”
Justice Amit Sharma of the Delhi High Court on Wednesday ‘recused’ from hearing a plea filed by Delhi riots accused Asif Iqbal Tanha against the leak of his “disclosure statements” in the case.
During the hearing today, Advocate Sowjhanya Shankaran appeared for Tanha. She contended that the petitioner is an accused in the Delhi Riots, and the present case arose out of certain different circumstances. “Prior to a chargesheet being filed before any court of Law, more than 6 weeks prior, there are excerpts of the chargesheet that are read out on the national television by the Private respondent- Zee News”, she contended.
“After that, there are articles published containing extracts of the chargesheet, my purported 'disclosure statements' my lord! In that pain, I had approached this hon'ble court in August 2020, wherein I had sought three prayers ....”, the counsel added.
On being asked by the Judge, “Otherwise these matters are pending where?”
The counsel replied, “The matter had come to my lords! From Justice Bhambhani for the reason that he has recused himself from hearing this matter, due to the intervention application filed by the National Broadcasting & Digital Association”.
Furthermore, Shankaran contended that the sequence is; FIR was filed on March 3, 2020, and Tanha was arrested on May 19, 2020. “While in custody and his bail application was pending prior to any chargesheet being filed in this case, because the agency had got 180 days under the UAPA Act. Prior to Chargesheet being filed on 14.08.2020, there are excerpts of the chargesheet that are read out by certain News agencies, which include my disclosure statements and this doesn't happen just once..” the counsel submitted.
On the contrary, counsel for State submitted that it conducted a vigilance inquiry and that the inquiry report was placed on record.
After hearing both counsels, Justice Sharma ordered, “List this matter before another bench, subject to taking necessary orders of the Hon'ble the Chief Justice on Monday i.e. April 24.”
Notably, last week Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani recused from hearing the plea & stated that "no act on the part of a court must in any manner have a deleterious impact on the credibility of the justice system".
It is to be noted that Justice Bhambhani had hinted recusal in the case in March when News Broadcasters & Digital Association (NBDA) filed an intervention application. He proposed his recusal from the case due to his "past association" with the organization.
"Both of you may or may not see any bias [but] I have to have the comfort level to decide the matter," Justice Bhambhani had said. Before elevation as a Judge of the High Court, Justice Bhambhani practiced in media law and had represented NBDA on several occasions in the past.
Tanha had filed the present petition in 2020 claiming that his ‘disclosure statements’ were leaked by the Delhi Police and sought an investigation into the official's misconduct, on who leaked the information to media channels. Through the present plea, he also sought guidelines on media reporting of ongoing criminal investigations.
Case Title: Asif Iqbal Tanha (Through Pairokar) vs. State of NCT of Delhi & Ors.
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