'I have not imputed any motives and there can be none as the Supreme Court is a great institution, but when errors are committed, citizens must point them out.'
'How else will the highest court correct them?'
Dushyant Dave, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com why he wrote a letter to the secretary general of the Supreme Court of India on coming to know that Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami's bail plea "was fixed for hearing within less than 24 hours of it being filed".
Why did you send a mail to the secretary general of the Supreme Court the subject matter of which was the 'Extraordinary urgent listing of the special leave petition (SLP) filed on behalf of Shri Arnab Goswami'?
For months I have been getting mails, messages and calls from Supreme Court lawyers that their matters, though filed and urgent, were not getting listed for hearings despite repeated requests to the Supreme Court registry.
They complained that their clients were in dire need to get justice from the Supreme Court by way of bail or interim orders or even final relief.
I have time and again requested the secretary general to look into them individually at times or generally, especially to ensure that young and not so well known lawyers's matters must receive prompt attention to subserve justice and help lawyers affected professionally by Covid.
I must say on many occasions the secretary general helped. But what was bothering me was the systemic failure to put in place a system wherein all lawyers, irrespective of their status, could get their matters listed urgently if their clients needed immediate relief. This was more acute in bail matters.
What is more important is that the system of permitting mentioning by lawyers before the Bench presided by the Chief Justice had stopped working since March and lawyers had no recourse available to get their difficulties addressed.
So, when the SLP filed on behalf of Mr Goswami was fixed for hearing within less than 24 hours of it being filed, and that too when it was largely incomplete for hearing as per Supreme Court rules, I was quite taken aback.
So, only to make a point, as representative of the Bar, to ensure that others also get the same treatment, I decided to bring the issue to the attention of the Supreme Court through the secretary general.
I was not writing against Mr Goswami, but only to highlight the plight of thousands of other citizens and their lawyers who were not getting relief for weeks or months.
Did the secretary general of the Supreme Court of India respond to your letter? If not, why do you think your letter was not taken cognisance of?
The Supreme Court has no system of acknowledging letters including from the president of the SCBA. This has been so for years.
It is not a happy situation, but sadly nothing can be done about it.
And, even if they had responded, what could they have said? It is a matter of record that hundreds of lawyers have tried to get matters listed for a long time and failed.
The crux of your letter was 'selective listing' of hearings. Why do these 'selective listings' happen?
Difficult to answer. But it all depends on the registry and the lawyer concerned. The level of subjectivity is too high with the registry and lawyers have no available effective mechanism to complain.
Your letter asked 'Is there any special order?' in the context of Arnab Goswami's bail listing...
I am sorry, but it is not a charge. It was a question as the registry had listed matters filed on behalf of Mr Goswami rather quickly. My letter must be read in that spirit.
It is to express anguish on behalf of hundreds of lawyers who are not getting the same treatment from the registry.
It is questioning its functioning and seeking improvement in it on a foolproof basis. It is not accusing of any impropriety.
As president of the Bar, I have a responsibility to help lawyers and I did that. Nothing more.
Questioning an institution on valid points is not a crime.
We are a democracy and every public institution must be open to be questioned and criticised.
I have not imputed any motives and there can be none as the Supreme Court is a great institution, but when errors are committed, citizens must point them out.
How else will the highest court correct them?
All those who know me understand my genuine concerns for the Bar and my respect and love for the institution (the Supreme Court).
They also know that if I do question, I do it for a just cause, not for personal reason or for improper motive.
Mahesh Jethmalani, a senior advocate, stated on social media that you don't raise the question of selective listing when Prashant Bhushan's listing comes up for hearing quickly. How do you respond to such charges?
Mr Jethmalani is a top lawyer, how can I contradict him? But you should check facts and you will find that he has made a mistake in saying what he has.
How do you react to Samyabrata Ray Goswami's (Arnab Goswami's wife) charge that your letter to the secretary general of the Supreme Court of India is 'a malicious, contemptuous attempt to interfere with the administration of justice'?
I respect Mrs Goswami's feelings.
Any wife would have reacted in the way she did without understanding the larger issues that affect the administration of justice.
I have nothing to say except that I did my duty as the leader of the Bar.
In your letter you also raised a question about use of technology platforms that could expedite legal matters in the Supreme Court in the context of the pandemic. Could you tell us more about this issue?
The existing virtual platform in the Supreme Court is far from satisfactory, affecting its functioning.
With a better platform, more Benches can be constituted and more matters can be heard and more citizens can get justice and more lawyers can be gainfully employed.
How can this system be streamlined?
By discussions among the Bench and the Bar.