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Sahara case: Justice Khehar recuses from hearing

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In a sudden twist in the Sahara Group case, Supreme Court judge Justice J.S. Khehar has recused himself from hearing the matter following which a new bench has been constituted.

A “communication dated May 6, 2014 received from Justice J.S. Khehar was placed before the Chief Justice of India on May 7. On May 7 itself, the CJI has been pleased to constitute another bench to hear the matter relating to Sahara Group….,” Rakesh Sharma, Deputy Registrar of the apex court, said in a release on Thursday.

The release, read out by the official at a press conference here, said that Justice Khehar had written a letter the day when he and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan decided a petition filed by Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy.

Justice Radhakrishnan, who retired on May 14, has gone on record saying that the bench was under immense pressure in the Sahara case.

The Supreme Court official, however, did not disclose the details of the new bench which will now hear the petitions relating to Sahara Group.

The bench of justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and J.S. Khehar in its May 6 judgement had upheld its order jailing Subrata Roy and rejected his claim that rules of natural justice were not followed in the case.

The 65-year-old Mr. Roy, who has been in jail since March 4 for non-refund of over Rs. 20,000 crore to depositors, was asked by the court to make a fresh proposal for paying Rs. 10,000 crore to get bail.

The court had passed the order on a petition filed by Mr. Roy challenging constitutional validity of its order passed on March 4 by which he was sent to jail for not complying with its order to deposit around Rs. 20,000 crore of investors money with SEBI.

The bench in a strongly-worded judgement had come down heavily on the Group for “systematically” frustrating and flouting all its orders with impunity on refunding investors’ money.

It had said the Group “adopted a demeanour of defiance constituting a rebellious behaviour, not amenable to the rule of law” and justified its decision to send Roy along with two promoters of two Sahara companies to jail.

The bench had said that it started adopting sequentially harsher means to persuade compliance of its order on refunding money leading to Roy’s detention after all the efforts to “cajole” the two companies and the petitioner were “methodically circumvented”.

It had also slammed Roy’s plea seeking its recusal from hearing the case.

“We find no merit in the contention advanced on behalf of the petitioner, that we should recuse ourselves from the hearing of this case. Calculated psychological offensives and mind games adopted to seek recusal of Judges need to be strongly repulsed.

“We deprecate such tactics and commend a similar approach to other Courts, when they experience such behaviour,” it had said.

The bench had said that the two companies of which Mr. Roy is a promoter “flouted” various orders passed by the SEBI, SAT, the High Court and of this Court, with impunity which cannot be allowed.

The apex court had held that various proposals made by Roy and the Group on depositing money turned out to be “ploys to sidetrack and derail the process of law”.

It had said that the apex court, before passing the order for sending him jail, had “immaculately” followed the procedure and Mr. Roy and other contemnors were afforded an opportunity of oral hearing before the order was passed.

It had also brushed aside the contentions of the Group that money had already been substantially refunded to investors saying the stand has been rejected earlier also and the contention is untenable.

The apex court had earlier imposed a condition that Mr. Roy, who is in jail since March 4, will be freed on bail only if he pays Rs. 10,000 crore out of which Rs. 5,000 crore has to be in bank guarantee and rest Rs. 5,000 crore in cash.

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