Updated: August 13, 2015 4:17:27 am
Questioning the “mortal hurry” in initiating proceedings, the Supreme Court Wednesday stayed the Gujarat High Court order issuing notices to 27 of its sitting and former judges over allotment of plots in Ahmedabad by the state government.
A bench led by Chief Justice H L Dattu restrained the High Court from proceeding any further and issued notices to the Gujarat government, Registrar (Administration) of the High Court and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, among other government agencies.
“The High Court was in a mortal hurry. This should not have happened. Let the order be stayed. Let us see what can be done,” observed the bench as senior advocate Harish Salve questioned the haste shown by High Court’s outgoing acting Chief Justice V M Sahai in issuing notices on August 10.
Two days before he was to retire, a High Court bench led by Justice Sahai had taken suo motu note of the letters written in July by two of its retired judges, and issued notices to 27 judges, including a sitting judge of the Supreme Court and two chief justices of high courts.
The notices were issued even though the Gujarat government’s advocate general opposed it, contending that Justice Sahai and the other judge hearing this matter were themselves interested in getting the plots and that he was willing to file his affidavit to state this on oath.
A day ago, Justice Sahai had constituted a larger bench of three judges to hear the plea and listed its first hearing on Wednesday morning, the day he retired.
Salve, representing a retired judge of the High Court who was also issued a notice, Justice D A Mehta, had mentioned the matter for an urgent hearing before the CJI earlier in the day and the court posted it for hearing at 12.40 pm. It asked for a message to be sent to the three-judge bench at the High Court not to take up the case till its order.
Five minutes into the hearing, the bench, also comprising Justices P C Ghose and C Nagappan, appeared convinced with Salve’s arguments that further proceedings ought to be stayed since allotments had been made more than five years ago and that the High Court showed undue haste in acting on the letters.
“What was the tearing hurry if questions of law were to be decided? Allotments are there for a number of years. This is not good for the institution,” Salve had argued. On Salve’s statement, the bench also allowed deletion of names of sitting and former judges who were made respondents in the PIL and were issued notices by the High Court.
It said that the judges did not have to be made parties since the proceedings were initiated suo motu. The court has also allowed intervention by the Gujarat High Court Bar Association after senior advocate K K Venugopal said the lawyers’ body is also required to be heard.
The notices were issued Monday based on letters written by retired Justices B J Sethna and K R Vyas last month, alleging that there were irregularities in the allotment of the plots.
Justice Sethna is chairman of the panel probing the polarisation of population on the basis of religion while Justice Vyas is chairman of the grievance redressal authority for those affected by the Sardar Sarovar Project. Their applications for plots were rejected by the Ahmedabad District Collector in 2013.
Justice Sahai also framed 10 questions for the larger bench, mainly dealing with contentions raised in the PIL, including whether “vacant plots in the society can be allotted for former judges of GHC”.
Other questions included: “Who among the judges are not allotted plot in the society? Is the allotment done after the formation of the cooperative housing society, and how can judges be given land on individual basis when a cooperative society is formed?”
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