SC to hold Saturday Hearings to Reduce Backlog
CJI says Delhi pollution, extra-judicial killings cases to be heard over the weekend
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has decided to work on Saturdays for the first time, with the Chief Justice of India TS Thakur seeking to set an example by hearing a batch of petitions relating to pollution in Delhi, as the number of cases pending with the top court has increased to about 60,000.
“Otherwise, there is just no time,” Thakur said to the lawyers dealing with the Delhi pollution cases in court.
The decision comes amid the stalemate between the highest court and the Narendra Modi government over who should have the final say over a judge’s appointment. The CJI had stepped in during the winter and slapped an environment cess to deter trucks not carrying supplies to Delhi from entering the city in a bid to curb smog from choking the city.
The court’s green bench led by him followed this up by banning registration of all diesel vehicles above 2,000 cc across Delhi and National Capital Region as Delhi topped the list of the most polluted cities in the world. This prompted a host of diesel vehicle manufacturers to file several cases challenging the ban, contesting the apparent premise that diesel is a more polluting fuel than petrol.
Green activists, led by amicus curiae Harish N Salve, hold the exactly opposite view. Delhi cess collector SMYR Consortium joined issue claiming inability to collect the amount. All these claims and counterclaims will have to be tested legally and are likely to take several days of court hearings. The CJI is yet to give a firm date for the hearing, but is expected to kick in soon.
The other case which will be listed on Saturday pertains to deaths in the Nort- heast during counter-insurgency operations by the military.
While the military says that its personnel cannot be tried for murder for deaths in actual combat situations, rights acti-
WHO’S THE BOSS?
vists and families of victims insist otherwise. The country’s highest law officer Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has stepped in to defend the armed forces. Though arguments have gone on for days, the hearing remains inconclusive as it is being heard by a special bench. Special benches are difficult to assemble as it means breaking up several division benches and disrupting their work, adding to the backlog of cases.
The CJI, forced by the unprecedented stalemate which has held up judges’ appointments, is also nudging lawyers in most cases to agree to day-long hearings in old cases. The Modi government is insisting via an executive procedure – governing procedure of judges’ appointment – that it should have the final say on a candidate for a judge’s post. The collegium has rejected the revised memorandum of procedure on the grounds that it cannot cede that power on the specious plea of “national security”. If there are any concerns on any candidate, the government should send it to the collegium for taking the final call, the collegium has said.