The Executive Committee of Kerala High Court Advocates Association has written to the Chief Justice of India seeking follow up action on the allegations raised by Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave regarding irregularities in the listing of cases with high commercial stakes for Adani group before the benches headed by Justice Arun Mishra.
Senior Advocate George Poonthottam had placed Dave's letter before the Executive Committee on August 26 for further action. Based on that, the Executive Committee resolved on October 16 to request the Chief Justice of India to take appropriate further action in view of the "serious nature of allegations contained in the letter of Sr Advocate Dushyant Dave". If the allegations are incorrect, action should be taken against the author of the letter for the requirement of "institutional majesty", added the KHCAA.
In his letter sent to CJI on August 16, Senior Advocate Dave alleged irregularities in the listing of four cases of Adani group before the benches headed by Justice Arun Mishra.
'Adani Group Cases Listed Before SC Bench Violating Its Own Procedure' : Dushyant Dave Alleges In Letter To CJI [Read Letter]
Dave cited two cases of Adani group, which were listed during before vacation bench during recent summer break, allegedly in violation of the SC procedure.
Despite there being no special urgency in the matter, these two cases were hastily heard and disposed of by the vacation bench in May 2019, ignoring the requests for adjournments made by counsel for the parties, alleged Dave's letter.
The first cited case is a 2018 civil appeal by Parsa Kenta Collieries Ltd, which is a part of Adani group, filed against a Rajasthan High Court judgment in favor of Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd (Civil Appeal 9023 of 2018).
As per the letter, though the special leave for the appeal was granted only on August 24, 2018, the matter was listed during summer vacation for hearing. Dave referred to the entries stated to have been made by the Registrar R K Goel on March 14, 2019 that the case was not ready for hearing.
On May 21 and 22, the bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M R Shah heard Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta in the matter and reserved judgment.
"I am informed that the other counsels appearing in the matter were neither informed nor their consent was obtained for the same", Dave said.
"Did the bench inquire into its urgency? Seems not. Did the bench take up other matters for hearing which were older and urgent? Seems unclear", he remarked.
The second case mentioned by Dave is a 2011 civil appeal titled Adani Power (Mundra) Ltd vs Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission and others(Civil Appeal 11133 of 2011). On May 23, the same bench entertained a 2019 petition filed for early hearing of the matter, and listed the case for hearing the next day. The previous listing of the case was in February 2017.
On May 24, the bench of Justices Arun Mishra, B R Gavai and Surya Kant reserved arguments in the case after hearing Senior Advocate Gopal Jain for the appellant and Senior Advocate M G Ramachandran for the respondent.
Quoting Ramachandran, Dave stated that on May 23, the Advocate on Record for the respondent had made a request for not taking up the matter during the vacation citing the unavailability of the Senior Advocate who was briefed in the case. Rejecting this request, the bench listed the case for final hearing the next day. Even on May 24, a request for adjournment was made on behalf of the respondent. But the bench chose to hear the case straightaway, stated the letter.
"I am told that the total benefit to this Corporate Client from these two judgments will run into thousands of crores", Dave said. He disclosed in the letter that he had appeared as a lawyer for Adani group in past, including in the case of Parsa Kenta Collieries before Rajasthan HC.
"Clearly, hearing and disposal of these two appeals have been done in complete contravention of the settled practice of the Supreme Court as also its established procedure. Both these matters were listed, taken up and heard without any justification, and in hurry and in an improper manner. As a result, besides causing grave injury to public interest and public revenue, it has caused immense damage to the image of the Supreme Court and the administration of justice.
It is disturbing that the Supreme Court of India should take up regular matters of a large corporate house during summer vacation in such a cavalier fashion and decide them in its favour", he said.
"It raises very serious and disturbing question as to whether the Registry had sought concurrence from the Hon'ble Chief Justice for listing such matters and if not whether the Registry became party to such listing in violation of its own practise and procedure.
But most of all, why were the two matters listed before the bench presided by Hon'ble Mr Justice Arun Mishra when other benches were available during May 2019 vacation?
And why did this Bench take up the same", he asked.
Apart from these two, Dave cited two other cases involving Adani group, which were listed and heard by benches headed by Justice Mishra.
On January 29, 2019, the bench of Justice Mishra and Navin Sinha decided the civil appeal Adani Gas Ltd v Union of India (Civil Appeal 1261 of 2019). According to Dave, the subject category of the case - appeals against orders of statutory bodies - was assigned to another bench presided by bench of Justice Sikri as per the roster published on July 2, 2018. Despite that, the matter was listed on July 4, 2018 before the bench of Justices Mishra and Sinha and was ultimately decided on January 29, as per Dave's letter.
It is further mentioned that on May 2, 2019, the bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Abdul Nazeer dismissed the appeal of Tata Power Company Ltd against Adani Electricity, Mumbai Ltd (Civil Appeal No.415 of 2007), directing payment of money payable by TPC to Reliance Energy Ltd to Adani Ltd.
"Handbook of practice and procedure published by the Supreme Court shows that matters ought to have been listed before available coram judges from previous benches. Why was this practise followed is a mystery. Did the registry play foul in this regard?", Dave asked.
He clarified that he was not questioning the merits of the judgments in the cases but was only pointing out the procedural irregularities in the bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra taking up these matters.
Contextually, the letter referred to the observations made by Justice Arun Mishra while hearing the suo moto petition "In Re : The matter of great public importance touching upon the independence of judiciary" .
While hearing the suo moto case registered following the sexual harassment allegations against CJI Gogoi, Justice Mishra had observed that the 'fixers' cannot be allowed to have place in the Supreme Court registry.
Dave also made references to the press conference made by four sitting SC where allegations regarding "selective assigning of cases to benches of preference" were made. Incidentally, the assignment of the PIL seeking probe into the death of CBI judge Loya to the bench headed by Justice Mishra was one of trigger points for the press conference, as told by CJI Gogoi to the media then.
In conclusion, Dave said that it was his duty as an officer of the Court to draw the attention of the CJI to these happenings.
Citing the example of the first CJI HJ Kania recalling certain judgments passed by Justice K N Singh following outcry by members of the bar and the then Attorney General regarding the questionable manner in which favours were given to a particular business house, Dave urged the CJI to take corrective steps 'as deemed appropriate to protect the institution'.
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Read the KHCAA letter