In a recent ruling, the Kerala High Court rejected the petition submitted by Advocate Yeshwanth Shenoy, who alleged that a specific judge was intentionally restricting the number of cases listed before the bench to a mere 20 matters per day.
The court dismissed the petition, deeming it a baseless attempt to gain publicity and tarnish the reputation of both the judges and the judiciary. The petitioner claimed that Justice Mary Joseph, despite being the Master of Roster, did not possess the authority to instruct the Registry to curtail the list of cases.
RESPONSE OF COURT
Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan, presiding over a single bench, made a significant observation regarding the distinction between the court of Justice Mary Joseph, primarily focused on hearings and an admission court. The court emphasized that a hearing court cannot be equated with an admission court, as the process of disposing of a hearing matter differs significantly from that of an admission matter. The court clarified that a judge’s ability to handle cases cannot be measured solely by the number of cases admitted or heard in a day.
Furthermore, the court highlighted the inherent dissimilarity between an admission court, which may handle over 100 admissions daily, and a court dealing with hearings. It emphasized that a judge responsible for hearing matters cannot be expected to consider the same volume of cases as an admission court. The court acknowledged that hearings, particularly in the context of first appeals in criminal and civil matters, often require considerable time due to their continuation of the trial process.
Similarly, the court recognized that second appeals in civil matters and criminal revisions following the dismissal of an appeal by the appellate court also necessitate a substantial amount of time for proper disposition. In essence, the court affirmed that the nature of the court proceedings, coupled with the complexity of certain cases, warrants an appropriate amount of time for a judge to fulfill their duties effectively.
MESSAGE TO THE LAWYERS
The court expressed concerns regarding the filing of writ petitions that compare the number of cases heard by different judges, highlighting that such actions would send misleading signals to society. It emphasized that lawyers, as officers of the court, possess knowledge of how the court handles various types of matters, such as admission matters, petition matters, and final hearing matters. The court asserted that there cannot be a rigid formula for case disposal, as each case must be decided based on its individual merits. Additionally, the court addressed the petitioner’s argument, which pointed out that the court of Justice Mary Joseph was still considering item number 2 while the court hearing the petitioner had almost completed its list. The court expressed surprise at such an argument from a lawyer claiming to have 21 years of practice.
It clarified that Court No. 2D, being a hearing court, may require additional time to complete the hearings of first appeals in older matters. The court emphasized that when a judge handles a case, they are dealing with the life of a citizen, and it is appropriate for it to take time. Furthermore, the court acknowledged that different judges may have varying approaches, such as some judges reading the case papers thoroughly before the proceedings to potentially skip the lawyer’s narration of the facts, while others prefer the facts to be presented directly by the lawyer. The court emphasized that such diverse attitudes among judges are acceptable, and there is no inherent problem with judges adopting different stances.
CONTENTION BY PETITIONER
During the proceedings, the petitioner argued that judges should consider their oath of office while deciding cases. In response, the court emphasized that every judge already approaches cases with the oath of office in mind, making it unnecessary for the petitioner to remind them. The petitioner relied on a Facebook post by a former president of the Kerala High Court Association, Adv. Rajesh Vijayan, as evidence that Justice Mary Joseph had instructed a limit of 20 cases per day. However, the court criticized the petitioner for basing their argument on a Facebook post rather than presenting specific evidence or documents.
The court noted that Facebook posts often contain sarcasm, jokes, and spontaneous reactions, making them an unreliable source of evidence. The court highlighted that the person who made the Facebook post was not a party in the writ petition and unless that person confirmed its veracity, the court could not accept it as evidence. The court expressed confidence that no judge would give such a directive and restrict the number of cases to only 20. Furthermore, the court stated that as a practicing lawyer with 21 years of experience, Shenoy should have addressed his concerns directly with the concerned judge, the Chief Justice, or through the High Court Advocates Association or the Senior Advocates Association. The court criticized the petitioner for filing the writ petition based on a Facebook post in an attempt to gain popularity and media attention.
The court questioned the message the petitioner intended to convey to society, emphasizing that judges and lawyers are integral parts of the judiciary, and internal problems can be addressed through established channels. The court condemned the petitioner for making baseless allegations against a judge and considered imposing heavy costs in response. However, since the matter had not been admitted, the court refrained from imposing costs at that stage.