He had also issued legal notice to Registrar General

A Full Bench of the Madras High Court Bench here on Saturday came down heavily on an advocate for issuing two legal notices, one to the court's Registrar General in Chennai accusing her of filing a false affidavit in a case filed by him and another to Registrar (Judicial) in the Madurai Bench questioning the delay in posting his case before the Full Bench.

Justice K. Chandru, who was part of the Full Bench along with Justices K.N. Basha and M. Venugopal, said that he would dissociate himself from hearing the case if the lawyer, W. Peter Ramesh Kumar, does not extend an apology and give in writing his willingness to withdraw the notices issued to the Registrar General as well as the Registrar (Judicial).

“How can you send a notice to the Registrar General when the matter is pending before the court? How can you say that it is a false affidavit? It is not tested by the court. When the case is pending, how can you threaten the other side?” the judge asked. Concurring with him, Mr. Justice Basha said that advocates must concentrate on advocacy and maintain decorum.

Mr. Justice Chandru also said that the lawyer had no right to “dictate” to the court as to when a matter should be heard. “It is for the court to decide. First of all, your notice is not in a very pleasant language. Do you think we can hear the case under threat? The date and time of hearing a case will be decided according to the convenience of the Bar and others,” he said.

Notices withdrawn

The judges began hearing the case only after the lawyer assured to withdraw the notices in writing which he did in the afternoon. The case was filed by B. Stalin, also a lawyer, seeking a direction to the Registrar General to curb the practice of filing cases pertaining to southern districts in the Principal Seat of the High Court in Chennai and to transfer all such cases already filed to the Madurai Bench.

Not in agreement with both the pleas, Mr. Justice Chandru said that an omnibus prayer to transfer all the cases could not be made as the issue of jurisdiction could be decided only on the basis of facts related to each and every case. “Suppose if a lorry owner is residing in Chennai and his lorry is impounded in Kanyakumari, can you prevent him from filing a case in Chennai?” he asked.

The judge pointed out that three kinds of actions led to filing of cases pertaining to southern districts in Chennai. Firstly, the Registry itself numbers certain cases and posts them before the judges. Secondly, it obtains instructions from the portfolio judge to list the case for deciding its maintainability. Thirdly, it lists the case directly for admission as per the instruction of the judge concerned.

“Now, whom are you seeking a direction against, the Registry or the Judges? How can this Full Bench issue a direction to other judges? Each judge functions on a Constitutional oath. Each judge has to apply his own mind and take a decision. If your grievance is against the judges, then make all the judges as party to this case and say that they are violating the jurisdiction,” he told the counsel.

He also went on to state that any wrong decision taken by a particular judge on the question of jurisdiction could be challenged only by way of an appeal in that particular case. “How can you tell the Chief Justice to transfer all the cases? The Chief Justice is the master of rolls. He allocates work to other judges. No judge can issue a direction to the Chief Justice,” he added.

When the petitioner's counsel said that permitting cases to be filed in Chennai as well as Madurai led to forum shopping (selecting a particular judge to hear the case), Mr. Justice Chandru said: “In forum shopping, two parties are involved. One is the lawyer and the other is the judge who entertains such cases. We cannot correct both of them.”

He also said that forum shopping could not be curbed through judicial orders. “It is up to the Bar and Judges to stop it. Jurisdiction is a matter to be decided through judicial determination. Each judge will have to see if there is an attempt to over reach. We do not know who are you blaming — the Registry, the judge, the petitioners or the lawyers?” the judge wondered.

Replying to it, the counsel said that his grievance was that the entire system had failed. Immediately, the judge retorted, saying: “If the system has failed, can the Full Bench rectify it? To tell you the fact, I cannot file a Vakalat (authorisation to argue on behalf of a litigant) in the Melur Bar without the consent of the local Bar though I am legally entitled to practise all over India.”

At the end, counsel complimented Mr. Justice Chandru stating that he was the only judge to transfer southern district cases from the Principal Seat to the Madurai Bench. To this, the latter said: “I do not need any compliments. I am doing only my duty. We have come to a stage where we have to accept bouquets and brickbats happily.” Later, the case was adjourned to November 17 for further hearing.