Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao of Telangana High Court on July 5 rejected Advocate-General (AG) B.S. Prasad’s request to recuse himself from hearing a writ petition filed by two farmers of Andhra Pradesh challenging a G.O. issued by Telangana government relating to usage of Krishna river water for power generation.
When the writ petition came up for hearing in the morning, Additional Advocate General J. Ramachandra Rao appealed to the Bench of Justices M.S. Ramachandra Rao and T. Vinod Kumar that it should be heard by a Bench headed by Chief Justice Hima Kohli as per roster of sitting arrangements. Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao said the bench would examine the issue when it would hear the matter during post-lunch session.
Meanwhile senior counsel Vedula Venkatramana appearing for the petitioners said the plea should be heard by the same Bench since the petition involved issues relating to Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Act. As per roster, AP Re-organisation Act matters are allocated to this Bench, he contended.
When the Bench sat after lunch-break, Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao said the Bench had got clarification from the CJ office that it should hear the matter. Mr. Prasad immediately requested the judge to post it before the Bench headed by the CJ. “When the matter was clarified by the CJ office, how can it be conveyed to them to hear the matter,” the judge said.
Meanwhile, the AG made an appeal requesting Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao to recuse himself from hearing the writ petition without citing any reasons. “Why do you want me to recuse myself from hearing the petition…can you explain the reasons,..?” the judge sought to know. However, without justifying the request he had made, the AG repeated the request.
“This is in poor taste…we don’t expect AG office to make such unreasonable request,” Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao said. He further said that such requests to recuse would amount to “Bench hunting”. “This is like Bench hunting…AG office is not expected to use such tactics,” he said.
Finally, the AG dropped his request and the Bench proceeded to hear the matter. As the petitioners’ counsel began present to his contentions, Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao said if the former was aware of Supreme Court verdict declaring that inter-State water disputes should not be heard by the High Courts. He cited the judgement of SC in a matter relating to Rajolibanda project.
As the judge was giving information pertaining to the judgement, AAG J. Ramachadnra Rao tried to explain further details of the verdict. At this stage, Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao said it was not correct on the part of AAG to represent in the matter when the AG was already appearing in the hearing. The Bench made it clear to the AAG that it was not correct on his part to intervene when the AG was already representing the State in the matter.
Meanwhile, senior counsel Vedula Venkataramana sought one day time to read the verdict. The division bench told all the counsels concerned to go through the judgement and come prepared to the court on Tuesday for presenting their contentions.
The plea was posted to July 6.