SC judge quits hearing firm lawsuit

Justice Kapadia holds shares in Vedanta group company


Justice Kapadia’s move comes close on the heels of Justice R V Raveendran and Justice Markandey Katju withdrawing on Wednesday from two separate cases involving Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited.
The lawsuit that Justice Kapadia quit hearing on Friday had been filed by BSE broker Harinarayan Bajaj in 2007 for stopping the implementation of a public offer made by London-based Vedanta Resources to buy 20 per cent additional stake in iron ore exporting firm Sesa Goa.

Justice Kapadia, likely to become the next Chief Justice of India after the retirement of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan in mid-2010, had courted controversy for hearing another lawsuit involving Vedanta and its subsidiary Sterlite despite having shares of the latter.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan was on Friday issued notice by a separate bench, headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, on a lawsuit seeking launch of contempt to court proceedings against him for questioning Justice Kapadia’s act. He had questioned Justice Kapadia’s act in an interview, which another senior counsel Harish Salve termed as “contemptuous per se” if against Justice Kapadia in particular and the Supreme Court in general.

Justice Kapadia was a part of the Special Forest Bench which earlier heard a petition challenging mining of hills in Orissa by Sterlite Industries, though he had disclosed in the beginning that he was a shareholder of the Vedanta group company. He had proceeded to hear the case only after the counsel from various sides had expressed confidence in him, but he faced criticism for not quitting. The case allowed Vedanta Resources to mine bauxite in the Orissa hills, which was opposed by tribal people and voluntary groups.
As the counsel sought to begin arguments on Friday on the lawsuit by BSE brokers before Justice Kapadia, he asked if it was a case related to Sesa Goa, and then said: “Not before me.”

Justice Raveendran had on Wednesday withdrawn from the bench hearing the gas row between Ambani brothers as his daughter worked for the law firm which advises the Mukesh Ambani group on global acquisitions.
Justice Katju had also recused himself from another RIL dispute on pricing of naphtha with BPCL saying his wife held shares in the Mukesh Ambani group companies.

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