Madras HC Has Stopped The Practice Of Treating Cases As 'Part Heard' [Read Judgment]
“In case the parties are of the view that it would be in the interest of both sides to continue to hear and decide a particular matter by a learned Judge who heard it earlier, notwithstanding the change of roster, it is open to them to submit a joint application to the Hon'ble Chief Justice for posting before the very same learned Judge.”
Asserting the role of the Chief Justice as Master of Roster, the Madras High Court has made it clear that it has barred the practice of "treating the matter as part heard".
The Bench comprising Justice KK Sasidharan and Justice PD Audikesavalu dealt with a contention taken in a writ appeal that there is no provision to keep the Writ Petition part heard after the change of roster and that hearing the matter earlier and passing series of orders cannot be a reason to keep the matter with the learned Judge, even after the change of roster.
The bench noticed that the Chief Justice of the High Court had made certain fundamental changes to the practice of keeping matters with particular Benches even after the change of roster on the ground that it is "part heard". The bench referred to this order, passed by the Chief Justice, while issuing the roster.
"Whenever the Division Bench/Single Bench directs the Registry with an observation to tag the case(s) in hand along with the similar case(s) and if the case(s) to be tagged is/are not within the Roster of the Hon'ble Bench, the Registry shall obtain appropriate orders from the Hon'ble the Chief Justice for tagging and listing the cases before the Hon'ble Court. Part-heard matters ceased to be part heard with change of assignment, unless where a proposal for continuation of the matters is sent by the concerned Bench at the request of the parties and the same is approved by the Hon'ble the Chief Justice."
The bench said that, in view of this order by the Chief Justice, if one of the parties to the litigation is not in favour of treating a particular case as "part heard", the matter should go before the concerned Judge as per roster. The bench said:
"In case the parties are of the view that it would be in the interest of both sides to continue to hear and decide a particular matter by a learned Judge who heard it earlier, notwithstanding the change of roster, it is open to them to submit a joint application to the Hon'ble Chief Justice for posting before the very same learned Judge. However, the ultimate authority for granting approval for such posting is only the Hon'ble Chief Justice."
The bench was considering a writ appeal filed by Tamil Nadu Dr.Ambedkar Law University and Vice Chancellor contending that the Single Judge exceeded the brief and expanded the scope of a simple Writ Petition filed by a faculty member into a Public Interest Litigation. They had brought to the notice of the bench about the conversion of a simple Writ Petition filed challenging the proceedings, making a reference to the University Grants Commission to decide his eligibility to hold the post of Professor in Law, into a public interest litigation, without placing it before the roster Bench.
Setting aside the single bench order, the bench said: "If the learned Judge arrives at an opinion that there is an element of public interest involved in the matter, the proper course is to refer the matter to the Hon'ble Chief Justice for posting it before the appropriate Bench. The roster duly approved by the Hon'ble Chief Justice does not contain any indication that the Benches other than the roster Bench are authorized to entertain Writ Petitions involving public interest."