Judge quits hearing ITC case citing conflict of interest


New Delhi: Justice S.H. Kapadia, the second seniormost judge of the Supreme Court, Monday quit hearing a case involving ITC Ltd. on the ground that he owns some shares in the firm.

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As the case came up for hearing before his bench, Justice Kapadia informed the lawyers present for various parties that he owned some shares in the ITC and asked them if they had any reservations on his hearing the case.

To this senior counsel Harish Salve, representing the party opposed to ITC, said he had complete faith in him and he had no reservation if the judge hears the case.

But another senior counsel Fali S. Nariman, present in the court and awaiting his turn to argue a different case, pointed out to the judge that it would be ethically far more correct if he quit the case.

Responding positively to Nariman’s suggestion, Justice Kapadia stopped hearing the case.

The case involved a lawsuit between ITC and the union government’s customs department which had wanted to take action against the former for importing around 1,000 tonnes of “hazardous municipal waste” from the US.

Holding ITC responsible for dumping the waste, the Madras High Court had earlier asked the company to send the material back to the US, the country of origin.

The Madurai Bench of the high court had also directed the customs authorities to initiate action against the officers of ITC (paperboard and specialty paper division) responsible for the garbage coming from the US, rotting in 35 cargo containers at Tuticorin port for more than three years.

Acting on a lawsuit by the ITC against the high court riling, the apex court, earlier in February, had restrained the customs department from taking any action against ITC Ltd for time being.

Early this month, Justice R.V. Ravendran had quit hearing the dispute between two Ambani brothers on the supply of gas as his daughter worked for a law firm that advised Mukesh Abani-led Reliance Industries Limited on global acquisition.

The same day another judge, Justice Markandey Katju, had quit hearing another case involving RIL as his wife owned some shares in the company.