Madras HC on setting up Benches of Supreme Court: An Indian, from a far-flung corner, has been unable to approach great Citadel of Justice, hailed as the ‘sentinel on the qui vive’

Madras High Court: Observing that, Litigants are compelled to accept the wrong orders in view of inaccessibility to New Delhi and the exorbitant expenses towards engaging a counsel, the Division Bench of N. Kirubakaran and R. Pongiappan, JJ., emphasized that,

When approaching the Supreme Court by a common man remains in dreams only, it would amount to denying justice.

Court’s opinion

While trying to support its opinion, the High Court considered whether Members of Parliament will travel to Delhi to attend Parliament by spending their own money without sponsorship by the Government? Answering that no Member of Parliament would spend his own money to attend Parliament, the Court said that when such is the position regarding the elected members of Parliament, no one could expect an ordinary litigant to travel to New Delhi spending huge amount to file Appeals against the orders of the High Courts or Tribunals.

Elaborating the above, Bench stated that the location of Courts and Tribunals in New Delhi alone, without having Regional Benches, causes injustice to the people living in far-flung places away from New Delhi.

It is very unfortunate that majority of the litigants are compelled to accept unfavorable orders, for lack of resources and access to Appellate Courts.

 Background

Present matter revolved around a complaint wherein it was stated that the petitioner was unable to travel to New Delhi, as the appeal against order passed by the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry had to be filed before the Bar Council of India, which was located 2186 kilometres from Chennai and he would submit that keeping the Courts and Tribunals only in New Delhi would amount to denial of justice to majority of people living far away from New Delhi.

Petitioner challenged the dismissal of his complaint by the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu filed by him against the second respondent, who was engaged by the petitioner to act as his Advocate, for professional misconduct.

Second respondent was engaged in conducting the Rent Control Proceedings by the Petitioner’s brother. During the course of the Trial only, it came to the notice of the petitioner that second respondent collected the rents and issued receipts based on the alleged oral instructions of the petitioner’s brother. Therefore, the petition was dismissed.

The findings given by the First Respondent was that the Petitioner’s brother, was not examined and it was fatal to the case of the petitioner. Moreover, the complainant alone had to prove and establish through evidence, the professional misconduct committed by the Second Respondent.

By giving such a finding, the Complaint was dismissed. If the Petitioner intends to prove that there was professional misconduct on the part of the Second Respondent, as rightly pointed out by the Disciplinary Committee, the Petitioner’s brother should have been examined who alone competent to speak about the transactions. Merely because the Petitioner’s brother adduced evidence before the Rent Control proceedings are not enough especially when serious allegations of misconduct are alleged against the Second Respondent.

Analysis, Law and Decision

In High Court’s opinion, the first respondent rightly dismissed the petition.

With regard to petitioner’s submission that alternate remedy of filing an appeal under Section 37 of the Advocate Act before the Bar Council of India is not efficacious as the Bar Council of India was located more than 2000 kilometres away, and if one intends to challenge the first respondent’s order, he will have to travel to New Delhi and engage a counsel by spending lakhs of rupees.

Bench stated that Advocates in Delhi are charging very heavily than the State Counsel. Moreover, the petitioner will have to travel and for that also he will have to spend money.

Because of the above reasons, litigants though having a good case, are unable to challenge the same before the Supreme Court or before the Tribunals which are located in New Delhi.

“…many litigants accept the order passed by the Tribunals or the Bar Council or High Courts, in spite of the fact that they have a good case or an arguable case on merits.”

“Litigants are compelled to accept the wrong orders in view of inaccessibility to New Delhi and the exorbitant expenses towards engaging a counsel.”

The above would amount to infraction of Article 21 guaranteed to a citizen as the existence of remedy should be reasonably practicable and access being one of the essential requirements, ought to be provided, as otherwise, it would be a distant dream.

High Court held that the availability of alternate remedy under Section 37 of the Advocates Act is not efficacious, hence the writ petition was maintainable.

Bench noted that because of a decision on the administrative side of the Supreme Court, the efforts taken by the Centre to set up Benches in different parts of the country had been made futile.

No impression should be given that the Supreme Court is meant only for the people living in and around New Delhi or the States surrounding New Delhi.

Further, the Court stated that when the Supreme Court is inclined to grant permission to establish Benches of the High Courts, every citizen expects the same decision to establish Benches of the Supreme Courts in the South, North, East and West.

The Constitution framers thought of establishing Benches of the Supreme Court at various places, other the incorporation of below stated Article 130 would not have taken place.

Article 130 of the Constitution speaks about the seat of the Supreme Court, which is extracted as follows:-

“130. Seat of Supreme Court.- The Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the Chief Justice of India may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.”

Adding to the above, Bench observed that there was no constitutional bar for setting up or establishing Benches in various parts other than New Delhi.

Supreme Court is the custodian of rights of not only the litigants but also the entire population. Time has come to establish Benches of Supreme Court at other places apart from New Delhi.

When people are aware of their rights, they should have accessibility and affordability to reach every level of hierarchy of Courts.

High Court added that larger issue pertaining to access to Justice was discussed at length in the case of V. Vasanthakumar v. H.C. Bhatia, (2016) 7 SCC 686, wherein the Court referred the matter to a Constitution Bench on a range of issues, such as inter-alia whether to establish a National Court of Appeal or Regional Benches of the Supreme Court, etc.

The Court, which originally used to sit en banc, rendering seminal Constitutional bench Judgements, has now, owing to the prevalent system of admissions under Article 136 become a regular court of appeal, hearing all kinds of matters on a variety of Jurisdictions. 

For the above-stated matters, Bench expects the Central Government to take some action.

Adding to the observations, Court also stated that

India is having a population of 136 Crores, 34 Supreme Court Judges are not enough and more number of Judges are to be appointed. Hence, this Court hopes and expects that justice would be rendered by all the stake holders by taking a pragmatic, appropriate, justifiable and a fair decision in the interest of the people.

Lastly, disposing the petition, Court granted two week’s time to file an appeal if he wishes so, before the Bar Council of India.

Opinion of R. Pongiappan, J.

I have gone through the judgment and I am of the view that the views and observations given in paragraph Nos.3, 4 and 19 to 32 in the judgment are not related to the prayer sought for in the writ petition. Hence, with great respect, I am unable to persuade myself to subscribe views taken by my esteemed Brother. Accordingly, except approving the decision in negativing the writ petition, I am not agreeing with the views and observations made in the above referred paragraphs of this judgment.

[Karthik Ranganathan v. Disciplinary Committee-IV, WP No. 13796 of 2021, decided on 19-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner: Karthik Ranganathan (Petitioner-in-Person)

For Respondents: C.K. Chandrasekkar (For R1)

Rajesh Vivekanandan (For R3 & R4)

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