Highlighting the trials of junior advocates and "non-VIP clients" in getting cases registered, the Gujarat High Court Advocates' Association President has written to the Chief Justice to resume physical functioning of the Court to put an end to the discretion of the registry in matters of listing, allowing every advocate to uniformly appear before the Judge assigned the subject as per roster.
"A group of 40 advocates came to meet me yesterday. Most of them were juniors. They specifically came to see me not only with a grievance that their matters are not being circulated for number of weeks (which they have accepted now), but to draw my attention to the fact that how matters of billionaires are circulated in no time", avers Senior Advocate Yatin Oza.
He urged that these lawyers not only expressed their anguish, but frustration and depression too. "At least 100 advocates in last three days, have either approached me or the Secretary General making a serious grievance and complained that their matters even though filed in a single PDF, for fortnight have not been listed despite their sincere attempts and efforts. The Registry, it appears, is held bend determined to fall prey to nepotism and favouritism", Oza has submitted.
He cited an instance where the Registry refused to list for 10 days a wife's bail application for and on behalf of her husband, rasing an absurd objection raised that the sex of the wife is not stated!
He says he has received over 100 messages from advocates where matters filed several weeks and even months previously have not seen the light of the day, are even yet to be numbered! These include even matters filed with an urgent note- for example, a student's plea to appear in his upcoming examinations from which he is presently debarred and on whose petition, notice was already issued prior to the lockdown. "If it is not circulated, the petition becomes infructuous and his career will be ruined!", it is pressed.
To buttress his case of rapmant discrimination in the listing of matters, it is indicated that as per the case status, which has been downloaded from the website of the High Court, one Mr. Areez Khambhata filed a petition on 29th May, 2020. "Everyone knows who is Mr. Areez Khambhata. He walks away with the order on 3rd of June, 2020! It came to the notice of the Registry only on 29.5.2020 about the matter having been filed by Mr. Khambhata and it processed it in one day and listed it on 3.6.2020, inasmuch as 30.5.2020 and 31.5.2020 were Saturday and Sunday. It was processed on Monday and listed before the Hon'ble Court on Tuesday", it is advanced. "Another matter is of AAACORP Exim India Pvt. Ltd. The case status as downloaded from the website of the High Court shows the presentation date to be 26.5.2020 and the orders passed are on 3.6.2020", iterates the letter.
Oza continues to say that the third example of such partisan listing was a matter of a very well known builder called Kasturi Construction Property and Land Developers. As per case status downloaded from the website of the High Court, its presentation date was 29.5.2020 and listed on 4.6.2020.
"The fourth matter is filed by Sun Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd/erstwhile Ranbaxy Laboratories. This is a Taxation matter. None other than Hon'ble the Prime Minister has publically on news channel in his live speech stated that there will be no recovery of tax till lockdown period is over. This matter also as per case status downloaded from the website of the High Court of Gujarat, is listed on 1.6.2020. I am told that since the Division Bench was not in favour of granting any relief and was inclined to dismiss it. Now it stands adjourned to 1.7.2020. How can a matter be termed as an urgent one where the petitioner's advocate requests for four weeks time", he wonders.
Five cases, "graver" than these are cited, three of smugglers (according to the Government of India) and two by top industrial houses, where the matters have been circulated in 24 hours or preponed without any note.
"While Junior Advocates and non VIP clients are making desperate efforts to get the matters registered by sending personal messages to the Deputy Registrar, nothing has been done in their matters. Nobody attends their phone calls. Nobody attends the helpline numbers and bar is now on the verge of frustration and depression", it is lamented.
The GHCAA President has requested the CJ to call for the details from the Registry to confirm that four or five advocates have filed more than 40 to 70 matters during this lockdown and their matters have been placed not beyond three courts, "not that for the reason that Hon'ble Judges would have shown them favour but for the reason that those Hon'ble Judges are liberal in their approach".
"While some advocates who insisted for their matters being circulated were threatened that their matters will be listed before two or three Hon'ble courts by name if they continued insistence and actually their matters have been placed", it is contended.
Reiterating his request to open the courts physically, "inasmuch as there is nothing eternal to be closed", it is stated that even as per the doctors' opinion and opinion of the experts, there is no likelihood of the vaccine being
invented or made available for at least coming six months and "the court cannot carry its function by video conferencing indefinitely and especially when such serious complaints are being made". "Juniors will breakdown, will have no place to go and like to commit suicide if situation continues as present", it is urged.
It may be noted that this week, after three judges of the Madras High Court tested positive for COVID, the Court which had resumed physical hearings reverted to the virtual working space.
Click Here To Download Letter