The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a petition filed by an advocate accusing bias in listing of cases by the registry officials and imposed a token fine of Rs 100 on him, saying that there was no 'justification' to allege 'discrimination' on the department which is working with lesser staffers during ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The apex court said 'baseless and reckless' allegations are made against its registry at the time of pandemic when the registry officials are putting themselves in danger to serve the litigants and several of the dealing staff as well as officers have suffered due to COVID-19.
A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and S A Nazeer, in the judgment, dealt with every instance referred to by lawyer Reepak Kansal of alleged delayed listing and said that the cases are being listed and it could not be said that there was 'an inordinate delay' in putting them before benches.
'During such a hard time, it was not expected of the petitioner who is an officer of this Court, to file such a petition to demoralize the Registry of this Court instead of recognizing the task undertaken by them even during pandemic and lockdown period,' the bench said and imposed a fine of Rs 100 on the lawyer.
The bench referred to 'uncured defects' in the pleas filed by the lawyers and said that the courts' functioning has been curtailed due to the pandemic situation and moreover, the registry officials are putting themselves in danger to serve the litigants.
'In the aforesaid circumstances, considering the ongoing pandemic caused by COVID-19, the registry of this court is working with less strength, and because of the facts described above and circumstances, we find that there was no justification for the petitioner to allege discrimination,' the judgment said.
The top court also rejected the submission of Kansal that a plea of Arnab Goswami, a TV anchor and senior journalist, was listed before the bench urgently and the same treatment was not given to his pleas.
'As to the case of Arnab Goswami, it was listed urgently in view of order of competent authority. It pertained to liberty and freedom of media,' the bench said.
'We dismiss the petition and impose a cost of Rs.100/ (Rupees One Hundred only) on the petitioner as a token to remind him of his responsibility towards noble profession and that he ought not to have preferred such a petition,' the bench said in the judgment.
The apex court said it has taken 'judicial notice' of the fact that a large number of petitions, which are filed, are defective and still the lawyers mention them before the benches for their urgent listing.
'It happens in a large number of matters, and unnecessary pressure is put upon the Assistants dealing with the cases. We find due to mistakes/carelessness when petitions with defects are filed, it should not be expected that they should be listed instantly.
'To err is human and there can be an error on the part of the Dealing Assistants too. This is too much to expect perfection from them, particularly when they are working to their maximum capacity even during the pandemic.
'The cases are being listed. It could not be said that there was an inordinate delay in listing the matters in view of the defects,' it said.
The apex court is functioning during the lockdown and the cases are scanned and listed by the Registry, it said, adding, 'The staff of this court is working despite danger to their life and safety caused due to pandemic, and several of the Dealing Staff, as well as Officers, have suffered due to COVID-19.'
The judgment said that in general, it has become a widespread practice to blame the registry for no good reasons.
'To err is human, as many petitions are filed with defects, and defects are not cured for years together. A large number of such cases were listed in the recent past before the court for removal of defects which were pending for years.
'In such a situation, when the pandemic is going on, baseless and reckless allegations are made against the Registry of this Court, which is part and parcel of the judicial system,' it said, adding that 'such evil' is also spreading in the various high courts.
The public interest litigation alleged that preference in listing of cases are being given to influential lawyers/petitioners.
The top court, on June 19, had reserved its verdict on the PIL seeking a direction to its registry officials not to give preferences to cases filed by influential advocates or litigants in listing before benches at the challenging times when virtual courts are functioning due to prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.