Justice Kapadia’s first day as the CJI was disappointing

By Parmanand Pandey

On assuming the august office of the Chief Justice of India on 11th of May, 2010, Justice S. H. Kapadia did two important things, one; he disposed off 39 Special Leave Petitions in 30 minutes that means, he took less than a minute for disposing off a petition. And the second thing which did was ,of course; more worrying for most of us and that was the warning to those who file “frivolous” Private Interest Litigation cases. Let me take the first point first. Anybody who is having any acquaintance with the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court will vouchsafe the fact that it takes lot of time and labour to file an SLP in the Supreme Court and the slaughtering of any SLP without affording any hearing is really very painful.

There is no gainsaying that are some judges in the Supreme Court who want to put a sluice gate for filing of the SLPs. These Hon’ble justices are of the view that the wide ranging spectrum of Article 136 be narrowed down and it must be confined to only to the constitutional matters. For the rest of the cases, the High Court should be treated to be a final court. This may not materialise in near future because most of Legislators, Lawyers and Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts are not amenable to the idea of constricting the width and ambit of the SLPs in the Supreme Court. Therefore, the SLPs would continue to flood the Supreme Court in the days to come and the Supreme Court would have to evolve any methodology to cope with inundation of the cases.

In fact, when the Supreme Court came in to existence in 1950 not many cases were being filed. The reasons were obvious; there was not much awareness among the people about their rights. It was embryonic stage of the assertion of the fundamental rights and secondly; the population of India was not even one fourth of what it is today and thirdly; the economic status of most of the Indians was so miserable that they could not think of filing the cases in the Supreme Court. If there is flood of cases in the Supreme Court or for that matter in any court of the country, it must be hailed. This is the index of the awakening and prosperity of the people. If there is no infrastructure, no modern technical support for justice delivery or not adequate number of judges then don’t blame litigants and don’t try to stifle the upsurge of the public by misadventures amendment of the constitution.

Anyway, the point I was intending to discuss was that disposal of the cases in the manner Justice Kapadia, who is known for his probity and uprightness, cannot be appreciated. If Justice delayed amounts to justice denied then Justice hurried is no better than justice buried. No person will countenance the attitude of Justice Kapadia in butchering the cases the way he did on 11th of May 2010. What is most shocking is that the Indian media presented it as the rare feat of Justice Kapadia. No My Lord, this is cruelty with the cases and we don’t expect it from you.

Now let me come to the issue of PILs. I shall discuss in detail about it on some other day but here I just want to say to that so long any clear cut guideline has not been prepared, it would be difficult to say what is genuine and serious PIL and what is frivolous and publicity interested or personal interest litigation. Shall we think that any PIL on which notice has been issued is serious and if notice by the court has not been issued then it is frivolous? It is the wrong and arbitrary way of measuring the weight of any PIL. The stern warning of Justice Kapadia will certainly throw cold water on the public spirited lawyers. Therefore, it is expected that Kapadia should make clear either through his judgment of from any public forum as to what constitutes a frivolous litigation. PILs have rendered yeoman service to the country and they should not be derided, that too; from the highest seat of the judiciary.