An unusual exchange between Bar and Bench

Angry exchanges between the Bar and the Bench during the course of the hearings are unusual, as they bring to the fore the innate feelings of unpleasantness against individual members of these two organs of Judiciary. The outbursts against one another are not just manifestations of impatience on the part of the Bench and the Bar; the Bench feels that the respondent, in this case, the Government has shown deliberate unwillingness to comply with its orders, while the Government probably rightly feels that it is high time the Bench is shown the lakshman rekha on separation of powers between the executive/legislature and the Judiciary. It also reveals a deeper distrust of each other’s motives. Clearly, a mission-like approach is discernible in the Supreme Court’s drive against commercial establishments in the residential areas (authorised or unauthorised). Is this mission in sync with the Court’s objective outlook?

Monday’s hearing in the Supreme Court on the sealings drive and the dramatic exchanges between Justice Arijit Pasayat of the Supreme Court and the Additional Solicitor General Vikas Singh must surely be rated as the most unusual of such exchanges. The reports of these exchanges are carried in all newspapers. The Hindu’s report can be read here.

The ASG has a point, as the livelihood of the ordinary people are involved in implementing the court’s orders. Considering that the Campaign for judicial acccountability and reforms has alluded to plausible conflict of interests involving the presiding Judge, who issued the original sealing orders in 2006, is it not time to take a relook at the entire case, and rehear it if necessary? Just because certain arguments were not put forward or advanced by the Government earlier, the matter need not be considered as closed, making it difficult for the Bench to take a relook at it, and take corrective measures, before it is too late.

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  • It is always poor advocacy when a litigant, especially a government lawyer, is rude to the bench. There can be no justification for such behaviour. If the governemnt feels that the Court is over-stepping its jurisdiction, there are many other mechanisms, which would be far more effective than the Additional Solicitor General throwing a tanturum in court.

  • I agree that the exchange is unusual. It is indeed rare that one hears of angry exchanges. However, I think we need to distinguish between two kinds of exchanges- exchanges on points of law and exchanges based on personalities and intolerance to listen. The first kind should be encouraged and should not be confused with personalities. Unfortunately, due to the development of personality based lawyering that has been encouraged by the courts, I think courts tend to place importance on the identity of the lawyer who is presenting the arguments rather than the merit in the arguments. And this appears to be on the increase. Exchanges due to intolerance and negative vibes between personalities should clearly be discouraged. But it requires an enlightened bench and an even more enlightened bar to develop this attitude. Needless to say both areas require improvement.