Another Supreme Court judge on Thursday declined to hear a petition challenging the Centre’s decision to appoint M Nageswara Rao as interim Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director.

Justice NV Ramana became the third judge to recuse himself from hearing the petition filed by Common Cause, a non-government organisation. The moment the matter came up for hearing before a bench led by him, the judge said: “I am recusing myself because I know him [Rao] as he is from my home state.”

Senior advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for Common Cause, asked the judge if he should go to the Delhi high court instead. “Every judge in the Supreme Court is recusing himself from hearing the matter,” he said.

Justice Ramana then explained that he and Rao knew each other. “If the issue was not about M Nageswara Rao, I would have heard it. I had attended his [Rao] daughter’s wedding. His [Rao] son-in-law is a practising advocate. I know him also,” the judge said. The other judges on the bench were justices MM Shantanagoudar and Indira Bannerjee.

Dave then said that the bench should ask the registrar to list the matter before another bench on Friday, to which justice Ramana said the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was the master of the roster and listing a case was his prerogative.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi on January 21 became the first judge to recuse himself from hearing Common Cause’s petition on grounds that he was part of the selection committee for choosing the CBI chief. On January 24, justice AK Sikri also declined to hear the case, without giving any specific reason.

The case will be heard on Friday by a bench headed by justice Arun Mishra .

“You understand my position. I can’t hear this matter,” justice Sikri had said.

The judge was part of the high-powered Prime Minister-led panel that removed Alok Verma as CBI director on January 10. But Justice Sikri was drawn into a controversy after media reports suggested he had accepted a government assignment as a post-retirement job in an arbitration tribunal in London.

Justice Sikri’s office had, however, clarified that the opportunity to work with the Commonwealth tribunal was not a government job. He also withdrew his consent for the assignment.

The high-powered committee to select the CBI director comprises the Prime Minister, the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha and the CJI or his nominee judge of the apex court.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who is a member of the high-powered selection panel, has claimed the committee’s next meeting would take place on Friday. The committee had last met on Janaury 24, but the meeting remained “inconclusive”.

First Published: Jan 31, 2019 21:32 IST

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