Activist-lawyer questions de-listing of cases from CJI-headed bench

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Activist-lawyer questions de-listing of cases from CJI-headed bench

| Updated: December 8, 2023 21:19

Prashant Bhushan, a civil rights activist and attorney, has filed a complaint, claiming that cases contesting the application of the Anti-Terror Law (UAPA) and criminal charges against journalists, advocates, and others had been posted before other judges against the rules and removed from the bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud.

In a letter to the Supreme Court’s judicial registrar, Bhushan protested the case Mukesh and Others v. State of Tripura and Others, as well as related matters, being scheduled for October 31 and November 29 before benches other than the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

According to media reports, senior advocate Dushyant Dave had written a scathing letter to Justice Chandrachud, saying that several cases on abuses of human rights, freedom of speech, and democracy had been removed from the benches that had initially heard them and were now being considered by other benches in violation of Supreme Court regulations.

The matter involves a petition challenging the criminal and terror cases registered at Agartala police station against Mukesh Kumar, an advocate who made a report on communal violence in Tripura, and a journalist who was vocal about the Tripura government’s alleged failure to act towards protecting Muslim citizens.

In addition to requesting that the FIRs be set aside, the petitioners contested the constitutionality of the UAPA, which sets strict bail requirements.

Later, comparable petitions were filed against these police cases that were reported in Tripura against other people. A few other petitions questioned whether the UAPA was constitutional in the first place.

All of these cases should be tagged and heard by the bench led by Justice Chandrachud, according to directives issued by several apex court benches over the previous two years.

Prior to some of these cases being listed before separate benches on October 31 and November 29 of this year, Justice Chandrachud had in fact heard some of these cases and issued orders on them.

As stated in Bhushan’s letter, this is in violation of the guidelines, specifically Clause 15 of the Overview of the New Scheme for Automated Listing of Cases, which was released on July 10, 2017, by the Supreme Court.

Media outlets mentioned that Bhushan complained that a second writ petition was filed by some individuals contesting the provisions of the UAPA. However, rather than being filed alongside Mukesh Kumar’s primary petition and other similar petitions, this one was listed before the bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi.

“This was in breach of aforesaid Clause 15 as normally… (subsequent petitions) would just have followed the bench presided over by Hon’ble CJI Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud,” Bhushan was quoted as saying.

“Nonetheless, vide order dated 31.10.2023 … Hon’ble Justice Aniruddha Bose and Justice Bela Trivedi inter alia directed the matters to be listed ‘before appropriate bench’.”

Bhushan further mentioned: “In a further surprising turn of events, instead of being listed before Hon’ble Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud on 29.11.2023, all these connected matters were listed before a bench presided over by Hon’ble Justice Bela Trivedi. The aforementioned Clause 15 was breached as these matters should have been listed before Hon’ble CJI… D.Y. Chandrachud….”

Bhushan claims that on November 29, when the cases were brought before the bench presided over by Justice Trivedi, attorneys representing the petitioners and others who had filed comparable pleas informed the bench that the cases ought to be brought before the bench presided over by Justice Chandrachud.

In order to get the cases listed before the bench led by Justice Chandrachud, they asked that the cases be referred to the Chief Justice for appropriate administrative orders.

However, Bhushan said, the bench headed by Justice Trivedi verbally remarked that the petitioners could act on the administrative side, which is getting in touch with the registrar or mention it before the CJI.

Thereafter, Justice Trivedi passed an order saying: “These matters have been listed before this Court pursuant to the orders dated 13.10.2022 and 20.I0.2022…. List on 10.01.2024….”

Bhushan’s letter to the judicial registrar mentions: “Sir, you are therefore called upon to pass appropriate orders after taking instructions from the Hon’ble CJI to rectify the arbitrariness to which the petitioners… have been subjected as soon as possible as the matter is next listed for 10.01.2024.

“In case there is any administrative order specifically directing the matter to be placed before (the) bench presided over by Hon’ble Justice Aniruddha Bose on 31.10.2023 and (that) presided over by Hon’ble Justice Bela Trivedi on 29.11,2023, you may kindly apprise the petitioners of the same; otherwise the petitioners would be constrained to avail appropriate legal remedies.”

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