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While recusing the court 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".
Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani of the Delhi High Court last week recused from hearing a plea filed by Delhi riots accused Asif Iqbal Tanha against the leak of his “disclosure statements” in the case.
The court 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.
“After giving its anxious consideration to the matter, what prevails with the court is that no act on the part of a court must in any manner have a deleterious impact on the credibility of the justice system. Regardless of the view that this court may hold in relation to the intervention applications filed, that view must yield to the view which better subserves to preserve the credibility of the system, which credibility derives not just from fairness in fact, but equally importantly, from fairness in perception”, the judge observed.
“Accordingly, without expressing any opinion on the merits of the submissions, and in the larger interests of the overall credibility of the justice system, this court is persuaded to recuse from the matter”, the court said in its order.
The single-judge released the case from his roster and ordered, “subject to orders of Hon’ble the Chief Justice, list before some other Bench on 19th April 2023”.
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.
During the course of the hearing, the judge had also said, "Your perception of bias or his perception of bias is a separate matter but I can certainly say my comfort level in hearing the matter. I am using this phase adversely." He had also suggested sending the plea to another judge on account of his “past association” with NBDA.
“Recusal should not come so easy but there are higher considerations than deciding than A versus B… It is not actual bias but the perception of bias. Even deciding on the application, I have to have a comfort level. I never get into a matter where I myself am not comfortable with my independence,” he had said.
It is to be noted that 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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