Litigation 101: Bombay High Court Practice and Procedure

The
following is a brief introduction to the practice and procedure of litigation at the Bombay High Court.
CMIS Date:
When
a case or “matter” is filed at the Bombay High Court, it is usually assigned a
date when it will come up for hearing by the computer software used by the
court, known as the “Case Management Information System”. This date is often
referred to as the “CMIS Date”. The list of cases published for any given day
or week at the court is known as a causelist or “board”. If your matter is
listed on board on a Monday and it does not “reach” or get called out on that
day, it will automatically be re-assigned a CMIS Date, usually a week or more
(sometimes, months) later. The mere fact that a matter has been assigned a CMIS
Date does not necessarily guarantee that it will actually be “listed” before
the court on that date (i.e., that it will actually show up on the board on
that date). If the matter is not listed on the CMIS Date, then it will
automatically be re-assigned another CMIS Date.
“Mentioning”:
Often,
litigants might like their matters to be listed on board sooner than the next CMIS
Date which may be months away. Ordinarily, a litigant must demonstrate to the
court that there is some urgency in the matter which justifies giving
precedence to their case over others. The process of skipping ahead of other
cases in line and getting an earlier date is carried out by “mentioning” the
case before a Bench.
“Mentioning” is a part of the unwritten custom, practice and
procedure of the court. It has various iterations which depend on the personal
preferences of each judge or Bench. An advocate must prepare a document,
usually no more than one page in length, called a “Precipe”, and take it before
the judge to whom cases of that kind have been assigned by the Chief Justice.
The Precipe must make out, in brief, grounds why the matter should be listed
ahead of others in line. “Mentioning” takes place most often at 11am, which is
the official time for the commencement of the court. As soon as the judges of
the court take their seat at that time, a string of lawyers will be found
making short 10 to 30 second pitches to the court, to try and convince the
court to assign an early date to their matters. In more rare circumstances,
mentioning may take place at 2pm (seconds before the judges rise for the lunch
break), at 3pm (seconds after the judges take their seat after the lunch
break), or 5pm (seconds before the judges rise for the day). Some judges do not
permit mentioning at all. This is because mentioning can sometimes take up to
15-30 minutes each day. [If a judge doesn’t allow mentioning in the morning, the practice will be to submit a Precipe to the court associate early in the morning. Thereafter, circulation or production (terms which will be explained below), as requested in the Precipe, might often automatically be granted.] Most judges will be against any mentioning which takes
place after 11am, without good reason.
In some cases, mentioning will not require a Precipe. This is
ordinarily so when the matter being mentioned is already listed on board on the
date on which the matter is being mentioned. A matter which is listed on board
on a certain date might be mentioned that very day for several reasons, e.g., it was “kept
back” (a term which will be explained below) and the advocate appearing in the
case has now arrived in the courtroom, or the matter did not “reach” or get
called out during the day and one of the parties wants to mention the matter at
5pm to have it listed sooner than the next CMIS Date. However, some judges do
not like matters listed on board to be mentioned before 5pm.
Circulation/Production
Broadly
speaking, you may mention a matter either for “circulation” or “production”. If
you want your matter to be listed on board on any day after the date on which
the matter is being mentioned (usually a few days after the date of the mentioning),
the matter is said to be mentioned for “circulation”, i.e., the papers of the
matter will be “circulated” to the court on that date. On the other hand, if
you want your case to be listed on board on the same date as the date on which the
matter is being mentioned, the matter is said to be mentioned for “production”,
i.e., the papers of the matter will be “produced” before the court on that very
day. Some urgency typically has to be shown whether the matter is being
mentioned for circulation or production.
The circumstances in which a judge will permit you to mention
a matter for “production” will vary from court to court. Before some judges, matters
are only permitted to be produced if there is some earth-shattering, urgent ad-interim or interim
relief which is being sought by a party which can’t wait even a day, e.g. if a
building is being demolished that very evening, and the residents of the
building want a stay order. Other judges (typically, those who do not permit
mentioning in the morning) may permit production for relatively routine
matters, e.g., for condoning the delay in filing an appeal.
Daily, Weekly, Supplementary, and Production
Boards
:
There
are various lists or boards which are published by the Bombay High Court, and
your case might show up on any one of these lists depending on your situation.
The standard causelist is the “daily board”. The daily board
comes out one week in advance, usually on the Friday or Saturday prior to the
week in which the cases listed in it will be heard. The daily board really
consists of five lists of cases, one list for each day of the week. What that
means is that if your case is listed for hearing on the daily board on a Monday
at item number 50 before Justice “A”, but Justice “A” was only able to hear 35
cases on his daily board that Monday, the case will not automatically appear on
the board on the next day, i.e. Tuesday, but will be assigned a new CMIS date,
usually a week or more (sometimes, months) later. The daily board begins with
the number “1”.
The “weekly board” is a list of cases for an entire week. In
other words, it is one single list for the entire week, and not five separate
lists for each day of the week like the daily board. Thus, if you are listed at
item 10 on the weekly board, and a judge is only able to reach item 7 of the weekly
board on Monday, your matter could still reach on any other day of that week. The
weekly board usually consists of final hearing cases, and will be called out
after the supplementary board and daily board are exhausted. The sheer volume
of the supplementary and daily boards makes the hearing of the weekly board a
rare occurrence. The weekly board consists of numbers in the “200” series.
The “supplementary board” often contains cases that were
mentioned for circulation during the week. It typically consists of urgent matters that are being heard out of turn. The supplementary board is usually (though not always) called out first, followed by the daily board, and weekly board. There is no supplementary board on
Mondays. This is because the daily board is prepared on Fridays or Saturdays,
and cases which were mentioned for circulation on Friday can appear on the
daily board for Monday. The supplementary board
comes out the night (usually at around 9pm on the High Court website) before the
date on which cases listed in it will be heard. Since you don’t have a week’s
advance notice that the case is going to be listed on board, preparing for
cases listed on the supplementary board might be taxing. In very rare cases,
some judges of the High Court will only have a supplementary board, perhaps
because it can be organized better from day to day. The supplementary board
consists of numbers in the “900” series.
The production board consists of cases which were mentioned
for production in the morning, or for which a production Precipe was submitted
in the morning. It will ordinarily come out at around 3pm or thereafter. The
production board might be taken up at or around either 3pm or 4.30pm, depending
on the preference of the Bench. (Judges who take up the production board after 4.30pm
risk having to sit past 5pm if the number of cases on their production board is
very large). In some courts, the production board might also come out and be
called out at or around 11am.
Captions, Remarks, Fixed and KeptBack Matters:
Litigators
must quickly learn to analyze the board when it comes out, to assess the
chances that their case(s) will actually reach or be called out before the Bench.
Cases are listed on the board under “captions” or headings. These captions let
you know the purpose for which the matter has been listed. Cases listed under
some captions will often take no more than a few minutes to conclude, e.g.,
cases listed “for directions”, “for withdrawal”, “for settlement/filing consent
terms”, “for speaking to the minutes”, or “for pronouncement of judgment”. On
the other hand, cases listed under other captions are likely to “go on” for longer,
assuming that the lawyers on both sides are prepared and ready to go on, e.g. “for
hearing”, “for admission/denial of documents”, “for admission”, “for recording
of evidence”, “for ad-interim relief”, etc.
            If a matter reaches and is called
out between 11am and 2pm, a request may be made to the court to have the matter
“kept back” for a short while, usually because the advocate appearing in the
case is in another courtroom at that time. In Delhi, a “kept back” matter is
called a “passover”. Before some judges, all “kept back” matters are called out
at 3pm, unless liberty is granted to mention the matter before. Before other
judges, “kept back” matters have to be mentioned when the advocate arrives in
court. Matters can rarely be “kept back” after 3pm.
The board will also sometimes contain matters “fixed” at a
certain time, often at 3pm but sometimes earlier or later. When the clock
strikes the time at which the matter has been fixed, the court might finish the
ongoing matter (sometimes, it might choose to even finish other matters under the same
caption), and then take up the fixed matter. Thus, for example, let’s say
that a matter is fixed at 3pm. Let’s say that when the court rose for lunch at
2pm, it was in the midst of hearing another matter. When the court resumes at
3pm, it will first take up the hearing of the ongoing matter (called the “matter
in hand”). It will thereafter hear all kept-back matters. Then, the “fixed
matter” will be taken up for hearing. “Fixed matters” often (though not always)
have senior advocates appearing on one or both sides, and are typically likely
to take some time if they take off. Finally, the board will also sometimes have
remarks against a case which has been listed. These remarks will provide procedural
information about the case, to which attention must be paid.
Office Objections, Stamp and Registration Numbers:
When
a case is filed at the Bombay High Court, the administrative department might take
up some “objections”. These objections relate to procedural lapses in the
paperwork. For example, the department might object that some of the documents
annexed to the pleadings are not very legible, and require typed copies to be
annexed alongside, or that some documents are in Marathi and require
English translations. These are called “office objections”. Until the office
objections are removed, the case will only be assigned a  “lodging number” (also called a “stamp”
number), which will be signified with the capital letter “L” written in
brackets alongside the number of the case. Once the office objections are
removed, the case will be assigned a “registration” number. This sometimes
assumes importance because some judges do not permit matters which are under
lodging numbers, where the office objections have not been removed, to be
mentioned for urgent relief.
Assignments:
Every few months or so, the Chief Justice of the
High Court publishes an “assignment”, which sets out the type of cases which will
be heard by each Bench of the court. Cases are typically distributed among
judges according to subject matter (e.g., testamentary, intellectual property,
arbitration, company matters, etc.) and chronology (e.g., suits up to 2010,
suits of 2016, etc). If you’re mentioning a matter, it’s important to ensure that you’re mentioning the matter before the judge who has the assignment of the case you’re dealing with. 

36 comments

  1. Having just started work at the Supreme Court of NSW, this is fascinating stuff to know – very interesting to see remarkable substantive continuity between the two even though the official terms used (somewhat more archaic and formal English at the Bombay High Court) may differ. Thanks for posting this!

  2. Simply Brilliant, Abhinav. I have seen and seen. Read and Read. Barely few can match your tenacity in writing. I wish i had your humility.

  3. Very brief and yet detail observations, hard to find anywhere. Thanks for a quick recap for the beginners..!

  4. Knowledge is useless unless it is shared. You have taken the effort to share your knowledge and it has enlightened me. I really appreciate it.

  5. Thank you very much !!! Really useful for beginners like me… Will like to read more on such useful topics regarding practice of courts in India.

  6. Thanks.. Abhinav sir… Your guidance is very useful for beginners like me.. I am going to join bombay high court.. Soon… Keep guiding us in such manner

  7. What does it mean when the case status of a pending Writ Petition shows ; ‘ Admitted ( Not ready )” but the case is assigned for final hearing to a Bench with names of the assigned judges ?

  8. Thanks for the information. It is good to know that people are keen on sharing their knowledge. Hats off to the initiative taken by you. God bless.

    1. USEFUL AND HELPFUL INFORMATION TO EDUCATED LITIGANTS WHO
      FOUNDED HELPLESS DUE TO LACK OF SUCH INFORMATION .
      GREAT DONE ,THANKS

  9. USEFUL AND HELPFUL INFORMATION TO EDUCATED LITIGANTS WHO
    FOUNDED HELPLESS DUE TO LACK OF SUCH INFORMATION .
    GREAT DONE ,THANKS

  10. Supplimentry case in Bombay high court not coming for hearing for last 4months, as urgent matter of redevelopment of building where we approach.

  11. Sir, Thanks a lot it help me a lot while filling a new matter in Hon’ble High Court….

    Sir please keep it up

  12. Excellent and precise explanation. Congratulations, u have literally obelised me with perfect knowledge and procedural breakthrough. Thanks.

  13. Very Very Thank you Mr. Abhinav Chandrachud. I am litigant. filed a case in Bombay High Court in 2015. Unaware of these terms properly since 2 years. Today I understood. When I asked the meaning of these terms to my Lawyer He replied “I m not here to teach you. Otherwise I have to open school to teach meaning of these words to clients.:” Thanks Again

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