What is Recusal of Judges?


Context:

Justice Indira Banerjee has recused herself from hearing a petition filed by the families of two BJP activists killed allegedly in the post poll violence in West Bengal.

Background:

The petition alleged that there was “indiscriminate” killing of innocent people in West Bengal following the election results by the “vengeful” ruling party in the State.

What is Judicial Disqualification or Recusal?

Judicial disqualification, referred to as recusal, is the act of abstaining from participation in an official action such as a legal proceeding due to a conflict of interest of the presiding court official or administrative officer.

Grounds for Recusal:

  1. The judge is biased in favour of one party, or against another, or that a reasonable objective observer would think he might be.
  2. Interest in the subject matter, or relationship with someone who is interested in it.
  3. Background or experience, such as the judge’s prior work as a lawyer.
  4. Personal knowledge about the parties or the facts of the case.
  5. Ex parte communications with lawyers or non-lawyers.
  6. Rulings, comments or conduct.

Are there any laws in this regard?

There are no definite rules on recusals by Judges.

  • However, In taking oath of office, judges, both of the Supreme Court and of the high courts, promise to perform their duties, to deliver justice, “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.

What has the Supreme Court said on this?

Justice J. Chelameswar in his opinion in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India (2015) held that “Where a judge has a pecuniary interest, no further inquiry as to whether there was a ‘real danger’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ of bias is required to be undertaken”.