Criticising this practice which appeared to have been adopted in the controversial and sensitive Naroda Patia massacre case of the 2002 riots, to possibly deliberately engage an advocate who is a distant relative of Justice Akil Kureshi, the division bench of Kureshi and Justice Biren Vaishnav observed that instead of requesting the judge not to hear the case, the senior counsel should have refrained from appearing in the case as the judge does not hear the cases of that lawyer. This happened on Friday, November 18.
This is the seventh recusal of a judge of the Gujarat High Court from this sensational case in which Judge Jytotsana Yagnik, had on August 29, 2012 convicted 32 persons to life imprisonment. The Gujarat high court on Friday took strong exception to the practice of involving a particular senior counsel in cases only to avoid a particular bench because, due to personal relationship, the judge does not hear cases in which that particular senior lawyer is appearing.
"When appearance is made by the senior advocate at late a stage, we wonder would it not have been better if the advocate had recused himself rather than request the court to do so," the court said.
The lawyer in question is senior counsel BB Naik. The high court noticed that though the appeals in Natoda Patia case were filed in 2012, advocate Naik appeared in the case as only as late as last week. The court questioned why the senior counsel was brought in this case at the last moment, and Justice Kureshi was requested to recuse himself on this ground. It has been a known fact the Justice Kureshi does not hear cases in which advocate Naik appears.
The court also noticed that the Naroda Patia case has a history of "several learned judges of this Court recusing themselves from hearing due to one reason or the other." The judges on Friday made it clear that when a large number of litigants are involved in cases like Naroda Patia riots, many advocates would be representing them. "Somewhere or the other, it is bound to happen that one out of the two judges may not be taking up the cases of at least one out of the several advocates appearing," the court said and questioned why advocate Naik had to appear in this case at the last moment.
2015 Mysterious Case of the Maya Kodnani Bail Applications
The bail applications of Maya Kodnani, once a minister in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat government, have taken curious turns ever since she filed the first plea in February 2014. She was first refused bail by the Gujarat High Court and then granted it by the same court in July 2014.
Witness survivors, backed by the group Citizens for Justice and Peace, filed a special leave petition challenging her bail. An elected representative in 2002, Kodnani was found guilty by a special court (set up by the Supreme Court) of not only being the kingpin of a conspiracy to launch a physical attack on sections of the populace in her constituency, but also of physical presence during the attack and distribution of swords to further it. Officially, the charge-sheet said 96 persons were killed in Naroda Patiya, the single biggest massacre of 2002. (Survivor groups have put the loss at 124).
Not long after, another round of drama began: attempts to speed up her appeal in the Gujarat High Court. The first such bid in April 2014 was objected to by survivors in the Supreme Court, as there were reservations about the manner in which the appeal was being rushed through. The Supreme Court listened and the hearing of the appeal was stayed for two months. Then on July 13, 2015 one of the two judges of the division bench assigned to begin hearing the case from that day recused himself, saying ‘not before me’.
There was more drama to follow.
A two-member bench of the Gujarat High Court, for the second time, recused itself from hearing appeals in the Naroda Patiya case. This time it was not a simple ‘not before me’. Justices MR Shah and KS Jhaveri stated in open court that while, under normal circumstances, reasons are not given by judges recusing themselves, this time they were constrained to state that some of the accused had approached them.
This shows how far these perpetrators are ready to go to subvert justice.
1. For the 14th Time, Babu Bajrangi Gets a 7 Day Parole: Naroda Patiya Case
2. Justice Delivered, The Naroda Patiya Verdict