NEW DELHI: Former Supreme Court Bar Association president and senior advocate Dushyant Dave has written a letter to Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, expressing anguish over shifting of some sensitive matters involving human rights, freedom of speech, democracy, and functioning of statutory and constitutional institutions, from one bench to another bench of the Supreme Court.
He said it does not augur well for the institution of Supreme Court of India so the CJI should look into this immediately and take corrective measures.
In a letter to Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud and other judges, he wrote, "I have personally come across a number of cases listed before various benches upon first listing and/ or in which notice have been issued, being taken away from those benches and listed before other benches. Despite first coram being available the matters are being listed before benches in which second coram presides."
Dave specifically mentioned matters listed before Court nos 2, 4, 6, 7 amongst others have been shifted out and listed before other benches in clear "disregard of the Rules, the Handbook on Practice and Office Procedure referred above and established Practice and Convention".
"Curiously, the seniority of the first coram is also being ignored in doing so. Our attention is also been drawn by esteemed Colleagues at the Bar, Seniors, and Advocates on Record (AoRs), about various cases in which they have appeared in the first instance on numerous occasions, later the matters being listed before different benches," he said.
The senior advocate also said it would not be proper for him to enumerate these matters as many of them are pending.
The CJI as the master of roster alone exercises prerogative to constitute bench and allocate cases.
In a specific remark to the CJI, he said, "On your appointment, strong hopes were created in the minds of citizens that under your leadership, the Supreme Court of India will rise to greater heights, the march towards which has somehow paused for some time earlier. The scars caused on account of such improprieties in the past few years on justice delivery have not healed as yet."
Dave claimed he took recourse to writing the open letter as the efforts to meet the CJI personally have not yielded any result, despite of appointment having been sought months ago by a senior colleague for and on behalf of many of lawyers.
"I personally met the Secretary General and apprised him of the anxiety and misgivings of the bar in this regard. Emails sent to Registrar (J-I) by Advocates on Record (AoRs) making serious grievance about it have not been responded, far from course correction taking place. Rules of 2013 provide an appeal to the Chamber Judge in such matters. Perhaps to avoid such appeals being filed the Registrar (J -I) are refusing anything in writing," he said.
The letter highlighted the provision in handbook on practice and procedure of the court which confers an extraordinary power on the CJI to upset the roster and to “pick and choose” and allocate and assign any appeal or cause or matter to any judge or judges of the court. “However, the Chief Justice can only exercise the power as per the practice and in case the coram as per roaster is available the Chief Justice cannot exercise power to take away any case before the available coram and place it before another," the letter said.