NEW DELHI, May 2 - The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a petition filed by social activist Harsh Mander seeking recusal of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi from hearing the foreigners detention centres case.
A bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna was hearing an application filed by Mander. Earlier, the Supreme Court registry had refused to accept his application.
Mander, who argued in person, went into the merits of his application, highlighting the plight of inmates in Assam�s detention centres.
Mander had submitted that he had filed the petition seeking compassion, humanity and commitment of the Supreme Court in upholding international human rights regimes as well as its own tradition of safeguarding and guaranteeing human rights enshrined in the Constitution for all human beings, not just its own citizens.
These are mostly immigrants who have been convicted of crossing into India illegally by foreigners tribunals, some of whom have been lodged in detention centres for 10 years, Mander claimed.
The social activist further submitted that his petition seeking humane treatment of foreigners and alleged foreigners in detention camps, and an end to their indefinite detention, in accordance with their fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution, appears to have been converted into a case on deportation instead.
�The statements made by the Supreme Court have been used by political parties in Assam to create an atmosphere of bias against the alleged foreigners by seeking their indefinite detention and deportation. It is respectfully submitted that even if the decision is likely to be influenced subconsciously due to the following reasons, as apprehended genuinely by the applicants, CJI Ranjan Gogoi may recuse himself in the interest of justice,� demanded Mander.
In response, CJI Gogoi intervened and asked Mander: �What if we say that you have been set up by the Government of Assam to file this application seeking recusal of the Chief Justice of India. How will you defend yourself?�
When a court debate takes place, a judge says a lot of things to test the waters, the CJI said, adding, �what was said in the debate was misinterpreted by you as the opinion of the judge. The opinion of the judge is reflected in the court�s order.�
Justice Sanjiv Khanna added: �When we ask questions, we want answers. Till we pass an order, we are open to change.�
�You see the damage you have done to the institution? Is the court not entitled to ask questions? If the court asks, has it made up its mind? Is it biased?� asked CJI Gogoi.
The CJI then asked Mander where he got the information regarding the court�s oral observations in the matter when he was not in the court. Mander replied that the media had reported on it. �So you got it from social media and you come and tell the CJI to recuse himself?� the CJI said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the government does not support the application for recusal.
�Recusal is destruction of the institution. We are not recusing. We will not allow anybody to browbeat this institution,� the CJI said.
With that the court dismissed the application filed by Harsh Mander. It then appointed Prashant Bhushan as amicus curiae in the case. The Legal Service Authority has been asked to take the case forward. The case is now coming up for further hearing on May 9.
The Supreme Court decided to look into the issues of living conditions and the long periods for which foreigners are detained in the centres.
When the matter was taken up in April, the court had expressed its dissatisfaction with the data provided on the issue by the Assam government. It summoned the Chief Secretary of Assam.