The Supreme Court Friday said it was high time to take initiative for having a time frame for hearing of cases as “very limited time space” is available and same points are being sought to be argued by lawyers in one matter.
The apex court said that when Justice M N Venkatachaliah was the Chief Justice of India (in 1993-1994), it was suggested that there would be a time frame for hearing of matters.
“We need to now think about it. Seriously think about it. That thinking has been going on since long but we have not implemented it. Dr Singhvi (senior advocate A M Singhvi) may recall that during Chief Justice Venkatachaliah, it was suggested that we will have time frame for hearing,” a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar said.
The top court observed this while hearing the Centre’s plea challenging the Calcutta High Court order which had set aside an order of the principal bench of the CAT to transfer an application by former West Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay, challenging the proceedings initiated against him by the Centre, from Kolkata to New Delhi.
The bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was appearing for the Centre in the matter, that initiative be taken in this regard. “Please take initiative. This is time, high time now,” the bench said, adding, “There is very limited time space available and many counsels want to argue the same point in one matter. This is what is happening. That is the experience now.” Mehta said, “Your lordships can take initiative. We can only support”.
At the outset, Mehta requested the bench if the matter can be taken up for hearing on November 29 as they will have to attend the function of Constitution Day being organized by the Supreme Court Bar Association during the day and it the matter might take a little longer.
Singhvi, who was appearing for Bandopadhyay, told the bench that the respondent has filed his written submissions in the matter.
The bench told Singhvi that it would like to hear him after Mehta has argued.
“Certainly. My written submissions are never a substitute. In fact, it will be very dangerous if your lordships are to start considering written submissions as substitute for oral arguments,” Singhvi said.
“Actually, we should start doing that,” the bench said.
The apex court told Mehta that this issue can be today’s theme if he is going to address the function. “I am not going to address, I am going to remain present there,” Mehta said in a lighter vein, adding, “It is a bar association function we are bound to be there.” The bench posted the Centre’s plea challenging the October 29 order of the high court for hearing on November 29.
On November 15, the Centre had told the apex court that the high court had passed a “disturbing order” while setting aside the order of the principal bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT).
The solicitor general had told the bench that the high court order was “disturbing”, both on the question of territorial jurisdiction as well as some observations made in the order.
The top court was hearing a plea filed by the Centre against the high court order, which had also directed the Kolkata bench of CAT to expedite the hearing of Bandopadhyay’s application and dispose of it at the earliest.
Bandopadhyay had moved the Kolkata bench of CAT, challenging the proceedings initiated against him by the Ministry of Personnel and Public Grievance and Pensions in a matter relating to attending a meeting on May 28 at the Kalaikunda Air Force station that was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the effects of cyclone Yaas.
Mehta had told the apex court on November 15 that Bandopadhyay had challenged the initiation of departmental action against him by the Centre before the Calcutta bench of CAT.
Referring to the high court order, the law officer had said some “very disturbing” remarks have been made against the principal bench of CAT. “We can say that the disturbing remarks will be expunged,” the bench had observed.
Bandopadhyay, who was not released by the state government, chose to retire on May 31, his original date of superannuation prior to having been given an extension of three months from that date.
Proceedings were initiated against Bandopadhyay by the Union government and an inquiry authority was appointed in this regard, which fixed a preliminary hearing on October 18 in New Delhi.
He then moved the Kolkata bench of CAT, challenging the proceedings against him.
The Union government had filed a transfer petition before the principal bench of CAT, which on October 22 allowed the transfer of Bandopadhyay’s application to itself in New Delhi.
This order was challenged by Bandopadhyay before the Calcutta High Court.