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Justice Lakshmanan breaks down, recuses himself from Mulayam case

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Justice A. R. Lakshmanan
Justice A. R. Lakshmanan

J. Venkatesan

Letter faxed to his residence says he was influenced to favour Mulayam

  • "The Bar is behind you," Sorabjee tells Judge
  • Another Bench to hear Mulayam assets case now

    NEW DELHI: Justice A. R. Lakshmanan on Friday broke down, his voice choked with emotion, in the Supreme Court before a scheduled hearing of a petition filed by Akhilesh Yadav, Member of Parliament and son of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh, seeking a review of the Court's March 1 order directing a CBI probe into their alleged disproportionate assets. Justice Lakshmanan declined to hear the matter after informing counsel that he had received an anonymous letter in the morning. Declining to reveal the contents of the letter, he said, "I have been a judge for 17-and-a-half years in various High Courts including five years in the Supreme Court. I have never received such a letter in my entire judicial career."

    (The letter was received by fax at his residence just before he left for the Court in the morning. It did not contain the fax number from where it was sent. The letter, which alleged that Justice Lakshmanan was influenced to pass an order in favour of Mr. Singh, has been handed over to Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan for appropriate action.)

    When senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi sought details of the letter, the judge simply said, "The contents are heinous."

    Justice Altamas Kabir, who was on the Bench along with Justice Lakshmanan, said, "The contents are shocking." The brother judge receiving such a letter when he was due to retire "is really worrying," Mr. Justice Kabir said. "We are not interested in hearing any particular matter."

    Justice Lakshmanan, who was upset and virtually in tears, said: "Myself, my wife and family are very much disturbed by the contents of the letter. I don't want to hear the matter."

    Senior lawyers led by Soli Sorabjee, Ashok Desai, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, Rajeev Dhavan and Mukul Rohatgi tried to pacify Justice Lakshmanan by telling him, "Such letters are quite common. We have absolute faith and the utmost confidence in this Court."

    Mr. Rohatgi asked him to keep the matter deferred till Monday if he was not in a mood to hear the matter now.

    Mr. Sorabjee said, "If you withdraw from the case, it will amount to putting a premium on the letter. It should be thrown into the waste paper basket. You should continue to hear the matter to uphold the majesty of the Bar, which is behind you."

    All of them unanimously urged Justice Lakshmanan not to recuse himself.

    Justice Lakshmanan, however, said, "I am not in a mood to hear the matter." He directed that the review petition be placed before the Chief Justice of India for posting before another Bench, of which Justice Kabir will be a member.

    Thereafter Mr. Rohatgi mentioned the matter to Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and requested that the case be listed for hearing before another Bench on March 23. Justice Balakrishnan agreed to do so.

    On Tuesday, the Court had refused to entertain an application from Mr. Mulayam Singh for modification of the order directing the Central Bureau of Investigation, on a public interest litigation petition by Congress activist Vishwanath Chaturvedi, to conduct a preliminary enquiry into the assets allegedly acquired by Mr. Singh and his family disproportionate to the known sources of their income.

    On Wednesday Mr. Akhilesh Yadav filed the review petition and the Bench decided to hear it in open court, as against the normal procedure of hearing a review petition in the judges' chamber.

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