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Long Court Vacations Violate Litigants' Fundamental Rights, Must Be Abandoned: Plea In Bombay High Court

Amisha Shrivastava
20 Oct 2022 4:42 AM GMT
Long Court Vacations Violate Litigants Fundamental Rights, Must Be Abandoned: Plea In Bombay High Court

A writ petition filed before the Bombay High Court has challenged the long vacations of the court claiming that it is a violation of fundamental rights of litigants. The plea says courts during the vacations function with insufficient number of judges to hear the urgent cases.

The petitioner Sabina Lakdawala has sought a declaration that the long court vacations during Diwali, Christmas, and summer for more than 70 days in total is a violation of fundamental rights and should be brought to an end.

The petition also seeks directions to make the Bombay High Court functional during the Diwali vacations by appointing adequate number of judges and by directing the registry to receive all petitions without requiring permission of the vacation bench.

"The long vacations that are a relic of the colonial era [and] have to a greater extent contributed to the further collapse of the justice delivery system that is already on the ventilation. The long vacation suits the convenience of elite lawyers, a microscopic minority," the petition contends.

The petition has, among others, impleaded the Chief Justice of Bombay High Court, the State of Maharashtra as well as Union of India as respondents.

According to the petition, the petitioner was thrown out of her home on 3rd July 2021 by her in-laws, her stepchildren and step grandchildren. She was arrested on "false charges" and booked under Section 326 of the IPC.

Since then, she has approached the lower courts and the High Court in multiple writ petitions and suits to seek relief. The petition states that she has attended the court on 158 days, yet she has not got any relief.

No hearing was granted to her case for quashing of FIR despite moving several praecipes for urgent hearing during the COVID pandemic until her lawyer sought audience with the judge in his chambers.

According to the petition, the petitioner had approached the High Court during the Diwali holidays 2021 for urgent reliefs after the magistrate who was hearing her case under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 went on a long leave. She also couldn't get any relief from the High Court during the Christmas vacation.

The petition states that the justice delivery system is in dire state. The closure of courts in the name of vacation is a relic of the colonial era and should be abandoned.

The petition contends that the court vacation was "justified at a time when majority of the judges were Englishmen who were not adjusted to the extreme summers of India, and they needed long vacations to travel by sea to England. It was a necessity then, today, it is a luxury that the country can ill afford."

The required break for judges and lawyers can be provided without the entire institution being shut down, the petition submits.

The petition further submits that there is a vacation officer in the Supreme Court who can be contacted to seek the hearing during the vacation. However, Bombay High Court has no such officer. The registry is also closed and no petition is accepted without the permission of the vacation judge.

The petition claims that in the Bombay High Court, a petition is listed only when the lawyer moves the praecipe to convince the court of its urgency.

Even when the case is listed, if there is a change in roster the case has to be mentioned again and allowed to be listed once again, claims the petition.

The petition suggests that instead of the court being shut down during the entire duration of the vacations, it should be kept open with half the usual strength.

The petition clarified that the petitioner is not seeking to increase the workload of judges and lawyers by denying vacation. Judges can be encouraged to take leave at different times of the year.

Case title – Sabina Lakdawala v. Hon'ble Chief Justice, High Court Of Bombay & Ors.

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