In New Delhi Absence of lawyers in court angers to-be CJI of India JS Khehar
NEW DELHI: Justice JS Khehar, next in line to be the Chief Justice of India, on Tuesday sent a strong message to lawyers to take their cases seriously by abruptly calling a recess and walking out after repeated adjournment requests, signalling to his staff to call him when the attorneys were ready.
“What is happening? Why is everybody in a holiday mood?” asked Justice Khehar, who sat alongside justice Arun Mishra.
In one instance, he even offered his own files to a junior lawyer who sought an adjournment on the grounds that he did not have the case papers. “Here, take my file. Argue,” Justice Khehar offered, only to reluctantly grant an adjournment when the lawyer expressed his inability to do so because he wasn’t prepared. “Do we have to leave for home?” Justice Khehar asked.
He was hearing cases from 2009 and 2010. Lawyers are often not ready when their cases are called out and seek adjournments on the flimsiest of grounds, usually because their “senior advocate is on his legs in another court”. Court exhortations to have a junior lawyer ready to argue a case if the senior was busy have fallen on deaf ears.
In two other cases, too, lawyers sought a passover in justice Khehar’s court on the grounds that the arguing counsel was busy in another court. When a case is adjourned, it is slotted for another day, whereas a passover is when it is rescheduled for another time on the same day. Angered by the bar’s refusal to abide by the rules, which restrict adjournments and pass-overs in listed cases, justice Khehar hit the buzzer and called for a recess.
“Call us when the lawyers are ready,” he said, walking off to the inner chambers. Justice Khehar’s staff then conveyed his strong displeasure to the lawyers, who rushed over and the court convened after a 15-minute break.
SC Bar Association president Dushyant Dave said: “This is very unfortunate. The bar must realise that they have a responsibility towards the litigant. In any other country, you would have to face serious consequences by way of consumer court cases and complaints to the bar councils.”
This is not the first instance of a judge irked by the absence of lawyers. Justice Ranjan Gogoi stormed out when none of the lawyers from one side were present for an arbitration hearing scheduled at 2 pm. No amount of persuasion — not even the presence of senior advocate Harish Salve — could bring him back to court and he adjourned the case for a long time. More recently, justice Jasti Chelameswar expressed disgust over repeated adjournments in his court.