Karnataka High Court Dismisses PIL Challenging SOP for Partial Functioning of Courts

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An advocate filed a writ petition challenging the SOP for the functioning of Courts. The Court, said that it is “Impossible to Find a Perfect Solution Liked by All Stakeholders”.

Petitioner’s Submission

The petitioner submitted that the Bar member’s suggestions were ignored. He submitted that by SOP, the HC had exposed the court staff and Judicial officers to the pandemic. In addition to that, the submission alleged exclusion of specific categories of matters from the SOP. And, that the cross-examination by video conferencing is not active. It was said that e-mails are sufficient for most stages of Trial Courts. He also submitted that advocates should forward video clips of submission.

He further submitted that the Trial Court functions based on a written argument. Thus, oral arguments, in most cases, are irrelevant. He criticized some of the clauses of SOP, submitting that undue advantage takes place.

Petitioner’s Prayers

He prayed for setting aside the provisions of the impugned SOP. Furthermore, he claimed that it discriminates between cases based on the different stages of the case. He also prayed for setting aside the provision in paragraph 6A of SOP. That provision permits Cross-Examination by Video Conferencing. Furthermore, he prayed for setting aside the practice of “first round calling”.

Court’s Decision

The Court dismissed the petition. It stated that,

“Though this is a fit case where costs quantified at an amount not less than Rs.1,00,000 should be imposed on the petitioner, we are not doing so. The reason is that if mercy and leniency are to be shown, they are to be shown by the Judges, who are occupying Constitutional posts. Therefore, we exercise our jurisdiction by showing mercy, and we are not imposing any costs on the petitioner.”

The bench during the hearing said “It is effortless to sit in AC offices and argue all this. There is always going to be opposition to the procedure adopted by certain members of the Bar. It is easy to throw stones at us. However, let us tell you that courts are for litigants and not only for the advocates.”

The bench in its order said “As we are dealing with an extraordinary situation, it is impossible to find a perfect solution which will be liked by all stakeholders. Before framing procedures at every stage, there was consultation with the Bar association and Bar Council, Advocate General and Additional Solicitor General. By publishing a notice on the website, suggestions were called, and those suggestions were referred to a court-appointed committee, and that is how SOP was published and revised from time to time after consulting stakeholders.

The procedure laid down is not rigid. In fact, SOP changed from time to time. We may note here that no one can claim what is devised by SOP is perfect. The reason is that the situation is abnormal.”

Further Explanation

The bench said “Efforts were made to reconcile the provisions of law for the efficient functioning of the Courts during the period of limited functioning. A suo-moto PIL has been initiated to ensure that courts function in a more effective and litigant friendly manner in the days of the pandemic.”

It added that “Several members of the Bar will have their opinions. But, the institution of Court is not run on the basis of individual opinions. The ultimate object of SOP is to ensure that the limited functioning of the Court continues in the best possible manner”.

Final Decision

The bench concluded by saying that “Suffice it to say that this Public Interest Litigation is not worthy of entertaining at all. This is not a case that could have been brought to the Court by way of a writ petition in the nature of PIL. This is a fit case where exemplary costs should be imposed on the petitioner, who himself is a member of the Bar. Urgent matters are waiting in the queue. The Court cannot be forced to devote a long time for a PIL challenging certain provisions of the SOPs.”


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