The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday refused to entertain a petition seeking the constitution of a bench for the Himachal Pradesh High Court at Dharamshala. The petition filed by Kangra District Bar Association was heard by a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice PS Narasimha, and Justice JB Pardiwala.
CJI DY Chandrachud, while dictating the order stated that–
"The decision has been taken to set up additional courts to facilitate the convenience of litigants. Moreover, a direction for establishment of a bench for High Court cannot be entertained in an Article 32 petition. Therefore we find no merit in the petition. The petition is dismissed."
At the outset, CJI DY Chandrachud asked the counsel for petitioner, Advocate Rakesh Kumar Singh–
"Why don't you approach the High Court? Why a petition under 32? We cannot direct the High Court and tell them that you shall constitute a bench at Dharamshala."
The petitioner responded that there was a concentration of all the circuit benches which was now sought to be made permanent. He added that the benches were 25-30 kms away from each other and it would take an overnight journey for the litigant or the lawyer to travel. CJI DY Chandrachud asked–
"What is the constitutional infraction? In fact, the reason why they constituted the circuit benches is so that people have access to courts. The issue is not the convenience of advocates all litigants. If travelling is an issue, you can have video conferencing. You can ask the High Court to set up a video conferencing facility. Chief Justice Muralidhar in Odisha has set up video conferencing facilities for every district in the state. He has decentralised the system and now there are benches in each district of the state. So any district lawyer can appear through video conferencing in the High Court by the facilities. You pursue that with the Chief Justice of the High Court and take it up on the administrative side."
Accordingly, the petitioner was granted liberty to take his grievances before the High Court on the administrative side. It was clarified that the bench did not express any opinion on the merits of the grievances but it was noted that the petition was not maintainable under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution.
Case Title: THE KANGRA DISTRICT BAR ASSOCIATION v. UNION OF INDIA AND ORS. | Diary No. 38216-2022