Oral mentioning, the practice that triggered the master of roster row, may become a thing of the past in apex court

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. File   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The usual sight of lawyers crowding the courtroom of the Chief Justice of India in the mornings to orally mention their cases for urgent listing may soon become passé in the Supreme Court.

Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Wednesday informed a crowded courtroom, chock-a-block with lawyers lined up to get a word in, that new guidelines have been settled by which urgent cases would automatically come up before a Bench for hearing within four days of their being filed.

"We are trying to get rid of urgent mentioning before the court, which unnecessarily takes away time," the Chief Justice said.

If such cases did not come up for hearing, the lawyers concerned could make a mention before the Registrar to have their cases listed, he said.

Oral mentioning is a convention by which lawyers short-circuit the long-winded filing procedures and make a direct appeal to the CJI, who is the court's administrative head and master of roster, for early hearing.

The CJI takes a call on the spot, after glancing through the case papers, whether the case deserves to be heard out-of-turn. Hearing a case out-of-turn would mean pushing other cases off the list. The CJI has often complained about how a case orally represented by a lawyer during mentioning does not later, when the judges read the papers in detail, turn out to be as urgent as it was initially made out to be by the lawyer.

"For over an hour everyday, the CJI is made to read the case papers just to see whether a case mentioned is important enough to deserve an urgent hearing...this is a waste of judicial time," Chief Justice Gogoi had once complained in court.

In the past few years, oral mentioning has been both controversial and witnessed reforms.

It was the oral mentioning of the Lucknow medical College scam case before Justice (now retired) J.S. Chelameswar that triggered the row about the CJI's powers as 'master of roster'.

A writ petition was mentioned before Justice Chelameswar because then CJI Dipak Misra was heading a Constitution Bench that day. Justice Chelameswar ordered a Bench to be formed to hear the petition. This order was countermanded that very afternoom by a Constitution Bench, which held that none but the CJI has the authority to allocate cases and set up Benches.

The convention also went through a positive transformation when Justice Dipak Misra realised how senior advocates use their heft in court to take advantage over other lawyers to get early dates during oral mentioning. Justice Misra had made it a level playing field for all lawyers by allowing only advocates-on-record to mention cases.

Justice Gogoi has repeatedly advised the Bar to be circumspect about orally mentioning cases, and be careful that only absolutely urgent cases are brought before him. He reminded lawyers that the court cannot be seen to be wasting time when hundreds of death penalty cases are waiting for years to be heard.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2021 6:11:01 PM |

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