Judges’ withdrawal in Kanimozhi bail case raises questions

The withdrawal of the two Supreme Court judges hearing the Kanimozhi bail plea has once again raised questions about the safety of senior judges who deal with ultra-sensitive cases.

The two judges, Justices P Sathasivam and AK Patnaik, withdrew themselves from the case just one working day before Kanimozhi’s bail plea was supposed to be heard on Monday. The Chief Justice is learnt to have alloted the case to another bench.

Judges typically ‘recuse’ themselves from a case when they are ‘approached’ — a term that can mean an offer of a bribe or a plain threat, or if they have a conflict of interest.

In this case, it is not known what reason the two judges gave for withdrawing from hearing the case.

A week ago, a vacation Bench of Justices BS Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar had asked the CBI to give a written description about what the charges against Kanimozhi were, where the case-property (bribe money) was at present and at what stage the trial is at present, after Kanimozhi approached it for bail.

The 2G scam case is one of the most controversial and high-profile cases to have come up in the Supreme Court in recent times. Earlier, former Supreme Court chief justice KG Balakrishnan had come under scrutiny after he said that no minister was named in a letter sent from the Madras High Court describing an attempt to influence the judge in a criminal case.

However, another Supreme Court judge came out in the open and said justice Raghupathy of the Madras High Court had named Raja as the union minister who tried to influence his case.

In another case, a Supreme Court judge hearing the high-profile Ambani gas battle also recused himself, though he gave the reason as his daughter having been once hired by one of the two parties in a legal role.

Another Supreme Court bench recused itself from hearing Sikkim High Court Chief Justice P D Dinakaran’s plea seeking stay of probe into allegations of misconduct and corruption against him. The bench comprising justices D K Jain and H L Dattu did not give any reason for withdrawing themselves from the case.