Supreme Court reserves order in petition demanding land next to court for lawyers’ chambers

The court questioned how it could pass an order on the judicial side for taking over land across the Supreme Court that belongs to other entities, suggesting that it is better to take up the matter with the government on the administrative side.

THE Supreme Court has reserved its order on a petition filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) demanding land for the construction of chambers for lawyers, even as it questioned how it could be done on the judicial side, adding that it has already been taking up all such issues on the administrative side.

A special bench comprising the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and P.S. Narasimha heard the matter.

At the outset, senior advocate Vikas Singh, who is also the President of the SCBA, expressed his gratitude to the bench for taking up the matter. Without referring to the previous episode pertaining to this matter when he had a heated exchange with the CJI over non-listing of the petition, Singh said that the Bar never ever attempteted to undermine the majesty of the Court.

When the bench began hearing the matter on merits, it wondered how it could pass an order for taking over land across the Supreme Court which belongs to the Foreign Correspondents Club and the Indian Law Institute.

Lawyers are a part of us. It’s a part of our institution. If we use our judicial orders, it’s a message  look what is the Supreme Court doing. You’re using judicial powers and using it for your expansion. Today it is land, tomorrow it will be something else. The message should not go that we are using our judicial powers to bulldoze the government,” said CJI Dr. Chandrachud.

He added that the issue could be taken up with the government on the administrative side, adding that this has been the tradition of the judiciary in our country. According to him, the CJI represents the institution of the judiciary, and that “we engage with the government, we say look: our needs for future are expanding”.

Justice Kaul expressed views similar to that of the CJI and said that the judiciary had been taking up issues of infrastructure, including the needs of lawyers, with the government on the administrative side.

Singh sought to argue that engagement with the government through the judicial side is more effective than engaging with it through the administrative side. He also said that the SCBA is never given any say when the court, on the administrative side, decides on infrastructure issues.

The CJI, however, disagreed with Singh, expressing that if one puts things properly to the government, it can be done. He gave the example of the funds the Supreme Court got for e-committee purposes.

Justice Narasimha added that the discussion on the administrative side can be more fruitful.

Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for the Supreme Court Advocate-on-Record (AoR) Association, flagged the requirement for chambers for AoRs, who are considered as an integral part of the Supreme Court. She said that at least 800 AORs have become eligible for such chambers. She requested the court to keep a representative from the Bar in its committee that takes decisions on infrastructure issues.

Senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra, for the Bar Council of India (BCI), of which he is the Chairman, said that the Council has to perform numerous functions under the mandate of law, but it has no space in the Supreme Court of India. The SCBA objected to the submissions of Mishra and said that BCI has no stake in the matter.

Attorney General for India R. Venkataramani said that the flexibility of the administrative process has a certain advantage. He said he could play a better role in the matter if it is taken up on the administrative side.