Bombay HC issues notice to Bar Council of India on plea against long court vacations

The Bombay High Court on Tuesday issued a notice to the Bar Council of India (BCI) seeking its dismissal in a lawsuit filed by Sabina Lakdawala alleging that courts taking holidays, including on Diwali days, is an infringement of the basic rights of citizens. Litigants’ right to remedy is affected by such long vacations.

The petition sought a declaration that closing the courts for more than 70 days for any kind of leave is a violation of the litigants’ basic rights and the same should end.

A panel of judges of SV Gangapurwala and S.

“Where do they get judges to form benches? The opponents expected a draft and we understand, and the impasse too, but what do we do?” Bench orally commented.

The petitioner’s attorney said the National Commission on Judicial Appointments could be a solution for appointing judges, and said that judges (through the college) need not appoint judges.

The Panel noted that the issue of not listing matters had been seen in the Supreme Court as well and that the Supreme Court had recently issued a notice to its own record seeking an explanation as to why a particular matter had not been included for a year despite being ready to be heard.

The petition sought to keep the Supreme Court functioning at full capacity during the Diwali holiday, make available enough justices to hear all cases, not just urgent cases which are heard through leave benches, and direct the Registry of the Supreme Court to receive all petitions without insisting on permission from vacation seat.

Lakdawala alleged that the court failed to hear her own pleading despite numerous requests for an expedited hearing and the same was due to time constraints due to long waits, and long court holidays contributed to the same. “The long furloughs which are a relic of the colonial era have contributed, to a great extent, to the further collapse of the system of administration of justice which is already under ventilation. The petition states that the long furlough suits the convenience of privileged lawyers, who are a microscopic minority.”

Court leave, a relic of our colonial past, was justified at a time when the majority of judges were English, who were not adapted to the harsh summers of India, and needed long holidays to travel by sea to England. It was a necessity, said the petition, Time, and today, it is a luxury that the state cannot afford.

Lakdawala said that while judges and lawyers need breaks, keeping the same duration limited to weekends and public holidays serves the purpose.

After lawyer Matthews Nedumbara said his client had been denied a hearing in her case, as she was not listed, the court asked him to show how often urgent relief had not been granted.

Nedumbara, however, said his appeal referred to the larger issue of “access to justice” and needed to be addressed. At issue in the lawsuit, he said, was not the refusal of vacations for judges and lawyers and the increase in their workload, but that judges could take leave at different times of the year so that the court would remain operational throughout the year.

Justice Gangapurwala asked, “Imagine if this were a school. What if the mathematics teacher took leave in January, the science teacher took leave in February, and another teacher took another month off, how would the school function?”

The bench said the BCI’s views would be required to be heard as they would be relevant and issued a notice to the board to seek its response during the next hearing.