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What is Judicial Disqualification or Recusal?

Topics Covered: Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.

What is Judicial Disqualification or Recusal?

Why in News?

A judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has recused from hearing the anticipatory bail application moved by former Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini, in connection with the case of disappearance and murder of a man in year 1991.

  • The Judge, while recusing himself from the case referred the matter to the Chief Justice for listing.

What is a recusal?

Judicial disqualification, referred to as recusal, is the act of abstaining from participation in an official action such as a legal proceeding due to a conflict of interest of the presiding court official or administrative officer.

General Grounds for Recusal:

Motions to recuse or disqualify judges and other adjudicators have been made for all sorts of reasons.

  • Most commonly such motions are predicated upon a claim that the judge is biased in favour of one party, or against another, or that a reasonable objective observer would think he might be.

But such motions are also made on many other grounds, including the challenged judge’s:

  1. Interest in the subject matter, or relationship with someone who is interested in it.
  2. Background or experience, such as the judge’s prior work as a lawyer.
  3. Personal knowledge about the parties or the facts of the case.
  4. Ex parte communications with lawyers or non-lawyers.
  5. Rulings, comments or conduct.

Are there any laws in this regard?

There are no definite rules on recusals by Judges.

  • Justice J. Chelameswar in his opinion in Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association v. Union of India (2015) held that “Where a judge has a pecuniary interest, no further inquiry as to whether there was a ‘real danger’ or ‘reasonable suspicion’ of bias is required to be undertaken”.

Besides, In taking oath of office, judges, both of the Supreme Court and of the high courts, promise to perform their duties, to deliver justice, “without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.

Need of the hour:

  1. Definite rules need to be framed in this regard.
  2. Judges should express their decisions in writing while recusing.


Prelims Link:

  1. Grounds for Judicial Disqualification.
  2. Who administers oath to Supreme Court and High Court judges?
  3. Articles 127 and 128 of the Indian Constitution are related to?

Mains Link:

Recusal has become a selective call of morality for Supreme Court judges. Discuss.


Sources: the Hindu.