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Recusal of Judges

Published: 17th Jan, 2022

Recusal of Judges


In a recent development, Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna of the Supreme Court recused themselves from hearing a dispute among the States of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka on the allocation of the Krishna river water.


What is Recusal of Judges?

There are no written rules on the recusal of judges from hearing cases listed before them in constitutional courts.

  • When there is a conflict of interest, a judge can withdraw from hearing a case to prevent creating a perception that she carried a bias while deciding the case.
  • The practice stems from the cardinal principle of due process of law that nobody can be a judge in her own case.

Instances of recusal

  • The conflict of interest can be in many ways — from holding shares in a company that is a litigant to having a prior or personal association with a party involved in the case.
  • Another instance for recusal is when an appeal is filed in the Supreme Court against a judgement of a High Court that may have been delivered by the SC judge when she was in the HC.

Who decides to recuse?

  • Since there are no formal rules governing the process, it is often left to individual judges to record reasons for recusal.
  •  Some judges disclose the reasons in open court; in some cases, the reasons are apparent.
  • The decision to recuse generally comes from the judge herself as it rests on the conscience and discretion of the judge to disclose any potential conflict of interest.
  • In some circumstances, lawyers or parties in the case bring it up before the judge. 
  • If a judge recuses, the case is listed before the Chief Justice for allotment to a fresh Bench.

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