It is a well established principle, both in our jurisprudence and across the world, that “[N]ot only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done”. whether there was a real likelihood of bias or not has to be ascertained with reference to right minded persons; whether they would consider that there was a real likelihood of bias
It is a well established principle, both in our jurisprudence and across the world, that “[N]ot only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done”.
In State of West Bengal v. Shivananda Pathak, 1998 5 SCC 513, the Supreme Court held as under:
“34. In Metropolitan Properties Co. v. Lannon [(1968) 1 WLR 815 : (1968) 1 All ER 354] it was observed “whether there was a real likelihood of bias or not has to be ascertained with reference to right minded persons; whether they would consider that there was a real likelihood of bias”.
Almost the same test has also been applied here in an old decision, namely, in Manak Lal v. Dr Prem Chand Singhvi [AIR 1957 SC 425 : 1957 SCR 575] .
In that case, although the Court found that the Chairman of the Bar Council Tribunal appointed by the Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court to enquire into the misconduct of Manak Lal, an advocate, on the complaint of one Prem Chand was not biased towards him, it was held that he should not have presided over the proceedings to give effect to the salutary principle that justice should not only be done, it should also be seen to be done in view of the fact that the Chairman, who, undoubtedly, was a Senior Advocate and an ex Advocate General, had, at one time, represented Prem Chand in some case.
These principles have had their evolution in the field of administrative law but the courts performing judicial functions only cannot be excepted from the rule of bias as the Presiding Officers of the court have to hear and decide contentious issues with an unbiased mind. The maxim nemo debet esse judex in propria sua causa and the principle “justice should not only be done but should manifestly be seen to be done” can be legitimately invoked in their cases.” (emphasis supplied)
However, the apprehension of bias should be brought to the notice of the Judge at the very first instance, and not at a belated stage.
These principles were reiterated by the Supreme Court in MY PALACE MUTUALLY AIDED COOPERATIVE SOCIETY VERSUS B. MAHESH & ORS CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5784 OF 2022 (@ S.L.P (CIVIL) NO. 7015/2022) where it was held that it may have been more apposite for the concerned Judge to have recused from the case. However, as the appellant did not bring it to the notice of the learned Judge at the very first instance, the Court declined to interfere.