Gayan Vapi Case of Allahabad High Court is a glaring example
Advocate Utkarsh Pandey
Can a judicial officer pass an order without jurisdiction? Rulings by the Supreme Court say that the Chief Justice of the Supreme and the High Courts are masters of the roster. It is they who are empowered to distribute the work, and constitute the bench(s) for listing of the cases. There was a huge hue and cry all over the newspapers over the Gyan Vapi case of Varanasi, which was heard for more than two years by the judge of Allahabad High Court Justice Prakash Padia for more than two years without jurisdiction. The moot question is whether the entire case hearings for two years for 35 times will become void.
The fact is this case was initially this case was assigned to Justice Prakash Padia of the Allahabad High Court. The case was to be heard by Justice Prakash Padia, the Learned Single judge as per the roaster and he had jurisdiction to decide the case. He heard the arguments from 18.1.2021 up to 15.3.2021. and kept reserved the judgment for seven months. In the meantime, the Apex Court passed an order in the case of Umesh Rai vs State of U.P. on 15 May 2023 ruling that if the judgment is not delivered within six months the same has to be listed before a different bench. The deadline was expiring before Hon’ble Mr. Justice Prakash Padia on 28.05.2023. The case was listed on 24.05.2023 and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Prakash Padia directed to list the matter for rehearing on 26.05.2023. The case was again heard on 27 May 2023, but the judgment was again reserved.
The case was then listed before the Chief Justice, who called for the case file. On the matter being placed before the Chief Justice on the administrative side, a report was called from the office as it was expected for the registry to have placed this matter before the Chief Justice for passing appropriate orders in terms of the administrative order. The report submitted by the registry stated that the leading file along with connected matters were listed before the learned Single Judge on 9th August 2021 when a direction was issued to list the cases on 11th August 2021. The matter was again directed to be listed for further hearing on 17th August 2021. As per the roster notified on 22nd November 2021 and subsequent rosters notified by the Chief Justice, from time to time, these cases could not have been listed before the learned Single Judge without obtaining appropriate nomination from the Chief Justice. The registry further clarified that the records of these cases were never sent to the parent section in the registry for the procedures to be followed for listing the cases in terms of the applicable orders, both on the administrative and judicial sides. The registry further reported that all records of the leading file along with connected cases remained in the chambers of the learned Judge and the cases were listed on the instructions of the Bench Secretary and the officials attached to His Lordship’s chambers. As per the registry, the parent section responsible for listing the cases before the Court had no access to the records of the cases as the files were never sent to the registry.
The facts of this case pose a more troubled scenario of procedural aberration. The non-observance of procedure in listing of the cases, passing of successive orders for reserving the judgment and again listing the cases before the learned Judge for hearing, though he no longer had jurisdiction in the matter as per the roster, under the directions received from the chamber of learned Judge, without allowing the parent section in the office to have access to the records of these cases are instances of non-observance of procedure settled for listing and hearing of cases.
The question is whether can a party take advantage of judicial loopholes easily and bend it to his/her will. The answer to that question is yes. It is the drawback of the justice delivery system where the end recipient of the Justice is the ultimate sufferer. This writer himself has come across a case in which a party very cleverly ligers on the case for one pretext or the other. The only way out is that judges must be wary of their responsibilities and should not keep the judgments pending for months. A new judge hears the matter again and he/she will keep it pending for many months.
The loopholes are there in the system and the wrongdoer exploits it to the fullest. The role of the media is also in question because providing false news only results in the loss of faith of people in the judiciary. The answer lies in the profuse use of modern technology, which will help justice delivery move with the times.