NEW DELHI: Supreme Court judge Justice U U Lalit Friday offered to recuse from hearing a plea filed by activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan seeking the right of appeal against convictions in original criminal contempt cases to be heard by a larger and a different bench.
Justice Lalit, who was heading a three-judge bench also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and P S Narasimha, told the counsel for the parties that he was appointed as amicus curiae in one of the matters relating to Bhushan.
"I think it was Harish Salve (senior advocate) as amicus curiae in the Tehelka matter. I was also the amicus in the same matter for almost 16 years."
"I was involved in the matter so, therefore, should I go ahead with the matter or should I not go ahead with the matter," Justice Lalit asked.
Justice Lalit asked the counsel appearing for Bhushan to file an affidavit stating that he has no objection if he hears the case.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan told the bench to go ahead with the matter.
"Just file the affidavit and it would become part of the record," Justice Lalit said when Dhavan urged the court to record his submissions.
The apex court adjourned the matter for hearing on May 17, 2022.
Bhushan, convicted and awarded one rupee fine for his contemptuous tweets against the judiciary in August 2020, had moved the top court seeking the right of appeal against convictions in original criminal contempt cases to be heard by a larger and a different bench.
The plea sought a declaration that a "person convicted for criminal contempt by this court, including the petitioner herein, would have a right to an intra-court appeal to be heard by a larger and different bench".
Bhushan, in the plea, suggested procedural changes to reduce the chances of "arbitrary, vengeful and high-handed decisions" in criminal contempt cases saying that in such cases the top court is the aggrieved party, the "prosecutor, the witness, and the judge" and hence they raise fear of inherent bias.