Supreme Court bench confounded by the assignment of a matter to it by another bench

The bench of Justices Gavai and Nath, which had been assigned a matter by another bench of Justices Shah and Ravikumar, pointed out that directions to place a matter before a particular bench can only be passed by the Chief Justice of India.

IN an interesting turn of events at the Supreme Court, a division bench comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Vikram Nath expressed puzzlement at an order passed by another division bench comprising Justices M.R. Shah and C.T. Ravikumar on February 27, directing the listing of a matter before a bench presided by Justice Gavai.

When the matter came up before the bench led by Justice Gavai yesterday, the bench comprising him and Justice Nath observed that directions to place a matter before a particular bench are passed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

If the particular Bench in a particular situation finds that the matter is placed before the another Bench, the Bench is required to direct the matter to be placed before the Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India for obtaining appropriate Orders“, the bench said in its order passed on March 13.

Giving a brief description of the listing of the case in question, the Justice Gavai-led bench said that it has been a normal practice of the Supreme Court that a matter follows a judge who is part of the bench which passed an effective previous order.

Further, the bench explained that in the present case, the effective order was passed on September 27, 2021, issuing notice. The bench that passed the order comprised Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Ravikumar.

After the retirement of Justice Khanwilkar in July last year, the matter followed the bench of which Justice Ravikumar was a member. The matter was listed before a bench comprising Justices Gavai and Ravikumar on September 14, 2022, because Justice Ravikumar was on the bench with Justice Gavai, and no effective order was passed on that day.

However, the matter then got listed before a bench comprising Justices Shah and Ravikumar on February 27 this year, when the matter was directed to be placed before a bench headed by Justice Gavai.

Now, the Justice Gavai-led bench has disagreed with the approach taken by the Justice Shah-led bench, stating that since an effective order has been passed by the Bench of which Hon’ble Mr. Justice C.T. Ravikumar is a member, the matter should have followed the Bench of which he is a Member.

It has thus sent the matter to the CJI for assigning it to an appropriate bench.

The case in question is a civil appeal against the order of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) on complaints alleging deficiency in service on the part of the appellant before the Supreme Court, Orris Infrastructure Private Limited.

The NCDRC had directed Orris to complete the construction work and handover the physical possession of a flat, complete in all respects as per an agreement with the respondents before the Supreme Court till September 30, 2020 after obtaining occupancy certificate.

It was also directed that Orris shall pay interest at the rate of six per cent per annum on the deposited amount from the due date of possession till the actual date of possession by the respondents.

Click here to view the Supreme Court’s order.

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