Gowda accuses apex court judge of bias, forces him to abandon lawsuit (Lead)

February 9th, 2009 - 8:40 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 9 (IANS) A senior Supreme Court judge quit hearing a lawsuit on construction of the Bangalore-Mysore Expressway Monday after former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda accused him of bias in favour of the promoters.

Gowda made the charges against Justice Arijit Pasayat in an application submitted by his counsel, former union law minister Shanti Bhushan.

“The applicant (Deve Gowda), through this application, seeks recusal of Justice Pasayat from hearing the present matter as he has reasonable apprehension of bias and want of impartiality (on his part) based on the relevant material in his possession,” said Gowda in his application to the court.

Upset by the plea, Justice Pasayat abandoned hearing the matter and transferred the lawsuit to Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan to assign it to a different bench.

Deve Gowda made the allegation days after Justice Pasayat rebuked him last week for trying to influence higher judiciary judges by sending them booklets and letters purportedly detailing various acts of fraud committed by the promoters of the expressway project, Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise Ltd (NICE), against the judiciary.

The former prime minister is also one of the parties in the matter and is opposing implementation of the project. He is entitled to have his say in the adjudication of the lawsuit filed by NICE seeking direction to the Karnataka government to help it implement the project expeditiously.

Gowda, in his application, said NICE had always been striving to have the matter heard only by a bench with Justice Pasayat on it.

To substantiate his allegations, Deve Gowda referred to two pleas by NICE last year, one oral and another written, made respectively to Chief Justice Balakrishnan and Justice Agrawal to have its various applications related to the lawsuit transferred to the court of Justice Pasayat.

The NICE sought a court direction to launch contempt to court proceedings against seven state government officials who allegedly derailed the project and foiled its implementation despite an April 2006 order by the apex court to execute the project. The expressway project was first conceived in 1997.

The expressway, estimated to cost Rs 28.5 billion (about $630 million), will reduce the distance between Bangalore and Mysore by 40-50 km, and cut travel time by 60-90 minutes from three-four hours currently.

A change at the helm of affairs in Karnataka put the project in cold storage.

The project ran into trouble from displaced farmers, NGOs and politicians, led by Deve Gowda, who urged the previous Congress-led government to stall the venture to protect farm lands and check the company’s “real estate” plans.

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