After Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice AK Sikri, a third Supreme Court judge has withdrawn from the hearing on a petition challenging M Nageswara Rao’s appointment as the Interim Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). CJI Gogoi and Justice AK Sikri has already withdrawn from the case. While recusing himself from the hearing, Justice Ramana said that he attended the wedding of M Nageswara Rao’s daughter, therefore, can’t be a part of the bench hearing the matter.
"Nageswara Rao is from my home state and I have attended his daughter's wedding," Justice Ramana said. Justices Mohan M Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee are the other two judges on the bench constituted to hear the case.
After this, senior counsel Dushyant Dave, representing the petitioner asked the top court to request CJI Gogoi to constitute a new bench for early hearing of the case. “How can I request the CJI? It is for the registry to list the petition," Justice Ramana responded to the lawyer’s request.
On this, the lawyer of petitioner Common Cause said that it was sending wrong signals that the Supreme Court is not interested in hearing the case of Rao’s appointment. "It is sending wrong signals. It is becoming personal... This court goes out of its way when it comes to removal of Alok Verma, but when it comes to new appointment, it is not inclined to hear," Dave said.
Justice Ramana, though, agreed that the petition raises important issues, but maintained his stand that he won’t be part of the case and said that it will be heard on Friday without him being part of the bench.
"You know me well and my position. Since I am recusing, I can't say anything... I agree the PIL raises some important issues. We can have it tomorrow and let me not be part of this hearing. If it is an administrative order I would have known, and since it is a judicial order I have to recuse now only," the top court judge said.
Three months after he was sent on forced leave, former CBI chief was replaced by Rao as the agency’s Interim Director. His appointment, however, was challenged by non-profit organisation Common Cause in the top court, saying that it was "illegal, arbitrary, mala fide and in violation of the Delhi Police Special Establishment Act".