Justice Sadhana Jadhav of the Bombay High Court has recused herself from hearing a bunch of petitions about the Elgar Parishad-Maoist links case, the third judge of the HC to do so this year. The accused in the case include 16 scholars and activists, including the late Jesuit priest Stan Swamy.
Earlier this year, Justice SS Shinde and Justice PB Varale of the Bombay high court had recused themselves from hearing the pleas arising from the Elgar Parishad case.
Justices Sadhana Jadhav and Milind Jadhav were presiding over two petitions filed by activists Rona Wilson and Shoma Sen seeking quashing of the case against them, a bail plea filed by lawyer Surendra Gadling, and a plea filed by priest Frazer Mascarenhas seeking that he be allowed to litigate on behalf of Swamy, who died in custody while waiting for medical bail.
Justice Sadhana Jadhav on Tuesday said that she must recuse herself from hearing the cases and that no Elgar Parishad or Koregaon Bhima case matters be placed before her. She did not assign any reasons for her decision to recuse herself. Generally, judges refrain from hearing a matter if they have any personal interests, associations, or stakes in a matter, or, if they have legally represented any of the accused persons in the past.
This is the third instance when a judge of the Bombay HC has recused from hearing the Elgar Parishad related cases. Earlier this year, Justice SS Shinde had recused himself from hearing the pleas arising from the Elgar case. Incidentally, Justice Shinde had been presiding over these matters between 2019 and 2021. It was his bench that had granted temporary medical bail to poet-activist Varavara Rao, and default bail to lawyer cum activist Sudha Bharadwaj, both accused in the Elgar case.
The matters had then been transferred to a bench led by Justice PB Varale, who too recused from hearing them. The high court then assigned a special bench led by Justice SB Shukre to hear the matters. Earlier this month, Justice Shukre was shifted to the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court, following which the matters were referred to Justice Sadhana Jadhav.
The petitioners’ counsels will now have to move an application before the high court chief justice Dipankar Datta seeking that a special bench is assigned once again to hear the Elgar matters.
The case relates to alleged inflammatory speeches delivered at the ‘Elgar Parishad’ conclave, held at Shaniwarwada in Pune on December 31, 2017, which the police claimed triggered violence the next day near the Koregaon Bhima war memorial located on the city’s outskirts.
The Pune Police claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists.