“We would like to give it some time,” the Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S A Bobde and Abdul Nazeer had said on August 16 while hearing petitions challenging the dilution of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the communication blockade in the Valley.
However, three weeks into the lockdown, the refrain in the Srinagar bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court is:
The Indian Express scrutinised orders in all cases heard between August 5 and August 26. These orders, available on the E-court platform, reveal a telling pattern:
#Of the total of 288 cases heard in this period where orders were passed, petitioners were not present in 256 cases.
# Respondents were not present in 235 cases.
#In at least 38 cases, the judges, Chief Justice Gita Mittal or Justice Rashid Ali Dar or both couldn’t receive even the case files.
#Almost all the orders follow two templates. One reads: “On account of restrictions on the movement of traffic in the State, counsel for the parties are not available. Record of the case has not been received. Interim orders, if any, to continue till further orders. List again on (date specified).” This exact wording is repeated in several cases.
Opinion | The long disarm of the law
#The second format: “No one has appeared on behalf of the parties when the matter is called out today. In the interest of justice, list again on (date specified). Interim orders to continue till further orders.”
#Of the 288 cases, 39 have been postponed to a date in August; 29 to a date in September; 114 in October and 90 in November. In short, over 70 per cent of the cases have been deferred to dates in either October or November.
#The government was represented in at least 21 cases as petitioners. Those who represented the government include senior additonal advocate general (5), additional solicitor general (3), advocate general (2), government advocate (1) and additional public prosecutor (10).
#In only three cases, the appellant appeared before the court — and in only one case the petitioner appeared.
Explained: J&K Assembly — like, unlike Delhi
#The government was represented in at least 44 cases as respondents. Those who represented the government include senior additional advocate general (12), additional solicitor general (9), additional advocate general (4), government advocate (4) and additional public prosecutor (15).
#In three cases where it was a respondent, even the State Human Rights Commission failed to appear. Except in two cases, no advocate appeared for private persons who were respondents.