Bias of Judicial Officers

The Supreme Court in State of Punjab Vs. Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar has examined the concepts of 'Judicial Bias' and the Doctrine of Waiver. The Supreme Court has held that the issue of bias should be raised by the party at the earliest, if it is aware of it and knows its right to raise the issue at the earliest, otherwise it would be deemed to have been waived. While examining various judicial authorities on the subject, the Supreme Court held as under;

LEGAL ISSUES : I. JUDICIAL BIAS 

10. There may be a case where allegations may be made against a Judge of having bias/prejudice at any stage of the proceedings or after the proceedings are over. There may be some substance in it or it may be made for ulterior purpose or in a pending case to avoid the Bench if a party apprehends that judgment may be delivered against him. Suspicion or bias disables an official from acting as an adjudicator. Further, if such allegation is made without any substance, it would be disastrous to the system as a whole, for the reason, that it casts doubt upon a Judge who has no personal interest in the outcome of the controversy. 

11. In respect of judicial bias, the statement made by Frank J. of the United States is worth quoting:- 
"If, however, `bias' and `partiality' be defined to mean the total absence of preconceptions in the mind of the Judge, then no one has ever had a fair trial and no one will. The human mind, even at infancy, is no blank piece of paper. We are born with predispositions ....... Much harm is done by the myth that, merely by....... taking the oath of office as a judge, a man ceases to be human and strips himself of all predilections, becomes a passionless thinking machine." [In re: Linahan, 138 F. 2nd 650 (1943)] 
(See also: State of West Bengal & Ors. v. Shivananda Pathak & Ors., AIR 1998 SC 2050). 

12. To recall the words of Mr. Justice Frankfurter in Public Utilities Commission of the District of Columbia v. Franklin S. Pollak, 343 US 451 (1952) 466: The Judicial process demands that a judge moves within the framework of relevant legal rules and the covenanted modes of thought for ascertaining them. He must think dispassionately and submerge private feeling on every aspect of a case. There is a good deal of shallow talk that the judicial robe does not change the man within it. It does. The fact is that, on the whole, judges do lay aside private views in discharging their judicial functions. This is achieved through training, professional habits, self- discipline and that fortunate alchemy by which men are loyal to the obligation with which they are entrusted. 

13. In Bhajan Lal, Chief Minister, Haryana v. M/s. Jindal Strips Ltd. & Ors., (1994) 6 SCC 19, this Court observed that there may be some consternation and apprehension in the mind of a party and undoubtedly, he has a right to have fair trial, as guaranteed by the Constitution. The apprehension of bias must be reasonable, i.e. which a reasonable person can entertain. Even in that case, he has no right to ask for a change of Bench, for the reason that such an apprehension may be inadequate and he cannot be permitted to have the Bench of his choice. The Court held as under:- 
"Bias is the second limb of natural justice. Prima facie no one should be a judge in what is to be regarded as `sua causa', whether or not he is named as a party. The decision- maker should have no interest by way of gain or detriment in the outcome of a proceeding. Interest may take many forms. It may be direct, it may be indirect, it may arise from a personal relationship or from a relationship with the subject-matter, from a close relationship or from a tenuous one."