In a development that suggests that judges, especially of the lower courts, take the system for granted, the Supreme Court today rebuked a judge of the Delhi Judicial Service for taking leave from his duty “for a few hours” to attend the hearing of his personal case.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice BR Gavai was considering an application related to the promotion of the Civil Judges Junior Division in the Delhi judiciary. Noting that one of the applicants was present for the hearing, Justice Rao asked “What are you doing here? What time the court starts there?”
“10 AM”, the applicant replied. “It is almost 10.50 now. Why are you here? You should be holding court”, Justice Rao told him.
The applicant replied that he has taken a “short leave”. Justice Rao then asked what is this concept of short leave. In response, the applicant said that it means taking leave for a few hours.
Pointing out that the applicant is being represented by Senior Advocate PS Patwalia, the Supreme Court judge continued, “You are represented by Senior Advocate PS Patwalia, Justice Rao continued, “You are represented by a competent lawyer. This does not augur well for the system. Really sorry state of affairs”. The applicant then said that he will leave the hearing.
“He is not even apologetic”, Justice Rao told Senior Advocate Patwalia. “Anyway, we are not holding this against you”, Justice Rao said.
The Supreme court judge then recounted his personal experience as a lawyer, when he handled a matter relating to judicial officers of Maharashtra. He said that he had advised the judicial officers to brief him and leave and not to attend the court hearing. Justice Gavai then said that when a case related to judicial promotions was being heard in Bombay High Court, the court hall was filled with judges.
These applications were filed by Delhi Judicial officers in the All India Judges Association case seeking modification in an order passed earlier imposing a condition that for appearing in the limited competitive exam for district judge a person shall have a minimum of 5 years experience as a civil judge senior division.
Senior Advocate Patwalia argued that the nature of work of junior-division and senior-division judges was similar, and to exclude junior division judges from the exam for district judges would be unfair.
The bench said that it wanted to know what the other high courts were saying regarding this. “We don’t want to pass an order and invite applications. We will appoint an amicus and we will see if other High Courts have anything to say on this. We want to prevent a flood of litigation”, Justice Rao said. Accordingly, the bench directed that the applications be served on the counsels appearing for the high courts and states.
The Supreme Court bench also appointed Senior Advocate Siddharth Bhatnagar as an amicus curiae in the matter, as the earlier amicus, ATM Sampath, had died.