The CJI Ranjan Gogoi, on the day he assumed office as Chief Justice of India, told a lawyer, who stood before him for the usual ‘mentioning’ that he is in the process of working out the parameters to ensure that the practice of mentioning be done away with, by ensuring that all matters, fresh or old be listed for hearing, without any delay.
By Alangad Raghunath
In a few days time, the visual sight of a long queue of lawyers standing in the Court of Chief Justice of India, making requests inter alia, for urgent listing of their matters, both fresh and old will hopefully be gone forever. In court parlance, such requests made at the beginning of the sitting of the Chief Justices Court, is called ‘mentioning’. Matters in such ‘mentioning’ would be any pending matters, notwithstanding, whether the matter is listed for the day or not. Such ‘mentioning’ would generally consume anywhere between 30 to 45 minutes of the time of the Chief Justice Court.
The Chief Justice of India recently remarked:
“The attempt is to do away with the practice of oral mentioning altogether…it takes up too much of the court’s time…new guidelines are being put into place which will ensure that every urgent matter comes up on the docket within four days of its filing, at the most five days…”
In fact, the CJI Ranjan Gogoi, on the day he assumed office as Chief Justice of India, told a lawyer, who stood before him for the usual ‘mentioning’ that he is in the process of working out the parameters to ensure that the practice of mentioning be done away with, by ensuring that all matters, fresh or old be listed for hearing, without any delay. He has also restricted the ‘mentioning’ matters to cases in which someone is being hanged or is being evicted from a premise, or any building is being demolished.
Up till now, the practice of the Supreme Court, on listing of fresh matters, is that after registration, the matter will take nearly two weeks to come up before the Court, for admission hearing. In case, the litigant is hard pressed to wait for two weeks, his lawyer had the option to either press for an early listing or an interim order to ensure that his case does not become infructous by the time the matter is heard for admission.
In the process, the litigant suffered two sets of fees, one for the ‘mentioning’ and the other during the admission hearing. In many such matters where urgent interim orders are to be obtained, the litigant often requests for engaging senior counsel to present his case thereby quadrupling his litigation expenses.
However, what the Chief Justice should guard himself from, is not to make an exception too often, as otherwise there will be the ever present danger of the exception becoming the rule and the system once again reverting to the original position or ‘back to square one’. Many a reforms earlier by previous chief justices, had a thumping start but sadly in no time, reverted to the starting point or ‘back to square one’.
This also brings to the fore, one more important aspect. For any reforms to succeed, both procedural and substantive, the cooperation of the lawyers is imperative. Without the cooperation and support of the lawyers, collectively called ‘the Bar’, it is impossible for any reforms, particularly procedural reforms to succeed. The lawyers must desist from the temptation to run to the Chief Justice court on the mere request of the litigant.
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For the litigant, requesting his lawyer to make a request to the court, even for trivial issues concerning his case, is all too common. After all, for the litigant, his vision is coloured by subjectivity and is like looking through a microscope, in contrast, and hopefully to the binocular vision of the lawyer as he has a more objective view of the matter. It is for the lawyer to be perspicacious and judge the reasonableness of the request and refrain from approaching the court for ‘mentioning’ if the so called urgency is found inconsequential or if the issue can wait till the time the matter is heard in due course.
Let’s hope that the Chief Justice of India succeeds in bringing the much required reform of the fresh or new cases getting listed in four or at best five days time, thereby completely and naturally dispensing with the need for mentioning matters for urgent listing. In case, the prohibition against ‘mentioning’ is not accompanied by the natural listing of pressing matters in a short time, the reforms would become oppressive and justice would become a casualty.
Let’s also hope that this procedural reform is only the beginning and more such reforms are in the offing before the present incumbent chief justice retires in November of this year.
Indeed, the justice system in India is too oppressive and many a times the litigant is forced to retreat from approaching the courts and as a result suffers the injustice meted out to them by the state or fellow citizens, in silence without daring to approach the courts for redressal of their grievances. After all, it is Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, who famously said in one of his judgments that if courts are not equipped to render justice, then the streets will take over the role of courts.
The attempt of the newly appointed Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi is revolutionary and to be welcomed by all, including litigants and lawyers. If he succeeds in pulling off this salutary reform, it will make him stand out and be remembered as a reform-oriented Chief Justice of India, even long after he retires.
It is time to extend the concept and principle behind the salutary intention of improving ‘ease of doing business’ to the courts also, which may be aptly called ‘ease in litigation’.
(Alangad Raghunath is Advocate on Record, Supreme Court. Views expressed are the author’s own.)