The Reliance gas dispute case in the Supreme Court between the two Ambani brothers took a new twist on Wednesday with Justice R.V. Raveendran, one of the three judges in the Bench, withdrawing from the hearing on the ground that his daughter was a partner in a firm advising Mukesh Ambani group on other projects.
In view of Mr. Justice Raveendran recusing from the case, Justice B. Sudershan Reddy has been inducted into the Bench, which included Chief Justice K. G Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam. The new Bench will hear the case afresh from Thursday.
At the commencement of the hearing, Mr. Justice Raveendran told counsel: “I am recusing myself from hearing this matter since I came to know only yesterday [Tuesday] that my daughter [Sunitha Rajesh] is associated with a solicitors firm [AZB Partners] in Bangalore which is advising one of the parties [RIL] in other matters relating to projects of global acquisitions.”
Mr. Justice Raveendran said, “The issue is my daughter is associated with a firm which is advising one of the parties in another project and I would not like to hear the matter. My conscience is clear and I feel that justice should not only be done but seem to be done. That is the tradition of this court. I am sorry that six days of valuable time of this court has been wasted. I wish that somebody should have brought to our notice earlier about my daughter’s association with the firm. Till now only RIL was advancing the arguments and RNRL has not started. So it is not too late to dissociate myself from hearing the matter.”
Senior counsel Harish Salve and Ram Jethmalani appearing for Mukesh Ambani group RIL and Anil Ambani’s RNRL respectively persuaded Mr. Justice Raveendran to continue hearing the matter but the judge declined to do so.
The CJI said: “The Bench will be reconstituted and we will continue the hearing tomorrow [Thursday].”
Katju withdraws in another case
In a related development, Justice Markandey Katju, heading a Bench with Justice A.K. Ganguly, also recused himself in another case filed in 2003 between Reliance Industries Ltd. and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. on the ground that his wife held shares of RIL Industries.