NEW DELHI: Over a month after the Supreme Court witnessed a judicial crisis, a fresh controversy is brewing, this time between two three-member benches — one led by Justice Madan B Lokur and another by Justice Arun Mishra, over judicial propriety.
It all began with a verdict on February 8 by a bench comprising justices Arun Mishra, A K Goel and Mohan M Shantanagoudar, which declared that compensation not availed within the stipulated five-year period would not be a ground to cancel land acquisition. With a 2:1 majority view, the bench said the 2014 verdict in a case regarding the Pune Municipal Corporation was taken ‘per incurium’ (without due regard to law).
This ruling invalidated the 2014 judgment, delivered by former Chief Justice RM Lodha and justices Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph.
On Wednesday, a bench headed by Justice Lokur, while hearing a case related to the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, criticised Justice Mishra calling it ‘per incuriam’. Justice Joseph called it a matter of judicial discipline. If a verdict is wrong, there is a method of reference to a larger bench. This practice has been followed over the years.
The Justice Lokur bench also asked high courts not to deal with any case relating to the interpretation of or concerning Section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
So, when a new land acquisition case came up before Justice Mishra on Thursday, he referred it to Chief Justice Dipak Misra to take a decision, saying: “Whether it is judicial indiscipline or not has to be decided by a larger bench.” Another similar case came up before a bench headed by Justice A K Goel and he, too, sent the matter to the CJI.