Land acquisition: SC turns down Justice Mishra's plea

 Supreme Court. PTI Photo

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea for recusal of Justice Arun Mishra from heading a five-judge bench to decide the contentious issue of compensation in land acquisition cases.

"I am not recusing," Justice Mishra declared turning down the plea for him to opt out of the hearing due to "predisposition" for having passed a judgement on February 8, 2018.

The court directed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and senior advocate Shyam Divan to frame issues for adjudication by the Constitution bench.

Justice Mishra had earlier taken a strong exception to a social media campaign launched against him to “malign” him and to seek his recusal, saying it amounted to bench hunting.

The bench also comprised Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah and S Ravindra Bhat. The court had last week reserved order on a plea for recusal made by a group of farmers' associations.

They contended that Justice Mishra was a part of three-judge bench which had passed a judgement on February 8, 2018 with regard to compensation in land acquisition cases. 

There were also tweets by certain handles questioning the decision to nominate Justice Mishra to head the five-judge bench.

The court had clarified that it was not sitting on an appeal against the February 8, 2018 judgement, and it may take a different view.

Background

On February 8, 2018, a majority judgment, delivered by a three-judge bench in the 'Indore Development Authority' case, had declared a previous 2014 verdict of another three-judge bench on the same subject as per incuriam (without care for law or facts). This contradiction was called “judicial indiscipline”.

The 2014 judgement in the 'Pune Municipal Corporation' case stated that the acquisition would lapse if the acquired land was not taken and the compensation was not paid, five years prior to coming into force of the 2013 Act.

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