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Case Transfers: Delhi High Court Mandates Judge’s Comments on Bias Allegations

Delhi High Court Issues Guidelines on Handling Bias Allegations in Case Transfers

The Delhi High Court, on Tuesday, issued directives for Principal District and Sessions Judges regarding the handling of transfer applications. This ruling came in the case of Directorate of Enforcement v Ajay S Mittal.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma mandated that no case should be transferred on allegations of bias without first seeking and considering comments from the concerned judge. The issued guidelines include:

  • Mandatory solicitation of comments from the judge from whom the case is being transferred due to alleged bias.
  • The decision on the application should be made after reviewing these comments and assessing any genuine apprehension of bias.
  • Consideration of other relevant factors and circumstances should also be part of the decision-making process for such applications.

These directives were established while overturning a decision by the Principal District and Sessions Judge of Rouse Avenue Court, which had transferred the Bhushan Steel money laundering case. The transfer was based on a judge’s remark to court staff about the rarity of bail in Enforcement Directorate (ED) cases. Justice Sharma emphasized that interactions between judges and their staff should remain confidential and should not be subject to external scrutiny by litigants or lawyers, as they demand respect and privacy.

The Court determined that the judge’s comment did not indicate any real bias against the accused, Ajay S Mittal, nor did it show undue favor towards the ED.

The High Court ordered that its judgment and the accompanying guidelines be distributed to all Principal District and Sessions Judges in Delhi. Additionally, the guidelines are to be sent to the Director (Academics) of the Delhi Judicial Academy for integration into relevant training programs for Principal District & Sessions Judges in Delhi.

In this case, the ED was represented by Special Counsel Zoheb Hossain and advocate Kartik Sabharwal. Senior Advocates Sandeep Sethi and Mohit Mathur, along with advocates Sanyam Khetarpal, Deepak Goel, and Shreya, represented Ajay S Mittal.

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