Bombay High Court’s Justice Gautam Patel Posts Case For Hearing In 2020
Justice Gautam Patel, Sitting Judge, Bombay High Court (Source: BloombergQuint)

Bombay High Court’s Justice Gautam Patel Posts Case For Hearing In 2020

Seemingly exasperated by the delays perpetrated by case counsel in the Gillette India Ltd. versus Reckitt Benckiser (India) Pvt. Ltd., Justice Gautam Patel of the Bombay High Court posted the matter for hearing on November 3, 2020.

Yes, you read that right. Over three years away. Unless the plaintiff, Gillette India, coughs up Rs 10 lakh as a deposit to cover a potential order for wasting the court’s time.

This succinct two page order - short orders are another Justice Patel novelty - says it all.

Bombay High Court’s Justice Gautam Patel Posts Case For Hearing In 2020
Bombay High Court’s Justice Gautam Patel Posts Case For Hearing In 2020

Justice Patel, appointed to the Bombay High Court in June 2013, is now well known for orders that not only get to the point quickly, but do so with fine prose and wit.

Another one dating back to last year, prompted a raft of giggles across social media for its fabulous word play, as Go Airlines (India) Ltd. argued against the use, by rival InterGlobe Aviation Ltd. (Indigo Airlines), of the domain GoIndigo.in. Justice Patel said...

For reasons that are presently unclear so far, Google India Limited, the 2nd Defendant, is also said to be liable. Mr. Jamsandekar for the Plaintiff grants that this is not because the word Go is also part of Google’s corporate and domain name (and much else besides). That is all to the good, for the alternative is unthinkable — we might otherwise be forced to ogle the Web.

Mr Jamsandekar insists that there are important legal issues, and this is why, according to him, the filings in the Notice of Motion have reached the stage of a sur-rejoinder ending at page 441. Mr Jamsandekar’s immediate goal is to file a sur-sur-rejoinder. He says that there is new material introduced by Indigo in sur-rejoinder and he is going to show actual confusion. Given the highly eccentric paging of this record, some confusion already exists, albeit not of the kind Mr. Jamsandekar has in mind. Goaded by this, Mr. Kirpekar for Indigo says he will then need to respond, adding even more heft to this already portentous litigation, by filing a sur-sur-sur-rejoinder — although he has, for reasons that are again not immediately apparent, gone ahead and filed a Written Statement even without waiting for directions from the Court.

There are plenty more orders to cite from, including a famous one in which Justice Patel reprimands the Kolhapure, Maharashtra police for arresting a man simply because he was drinking tea in an allegedly suspicious manner.

“This is bewildering. We were unaware that the law required anyone to give an explanation for having tea, whether in the morning, noon or night. One might take tea in a variety of ways, not all of them always elegant or delicate, some of them perhaps even noisy. But we know of no way to drink tea ‘suspiciously’.”

But probably the best pronouncement so far is Justice Patel’s order against the National Stock Exchange of India Ltd. (NSE) in it’s defamation case against journalists Sucheta Dalal and Debashish Basu.

We forget that these freedoms have not come easily. They have not come cheap. They were hard won after years of sacrifice and toil and struggle. They have not been given. They have been forged. We surrender them at our peril. To suggest, as the Plaintiffs do, that because they are a much-vaunted public body, they are, only for that reason, immune from all error and wrongdoing is, I think, a grotesque over-simplification. It is fashionable these days to deride every section of the media as mere papparazzi, chasing the salacious and steamy. We forget again. None of the scams and the leaks of the past two decades would have been possible without journalists, editors, newspapers and television news anchors. We have grown accustomed to mocking them. We deride their manner, describing them as loud, brash, obnoxious, abrasive and opinionated. We forget. We forget that but for them the many uncomfortable questions that must be asked of those in authority and those with the sheer muscle power of money would forever go unasked and unanswered. We forget that it is these persons we are so wont to mock who are, truly, the watchdogs of our body politic, the voice of our collective conscience, the sentinels on our ramparts. They may annoy. They may irritate. They certainly distress and cause discomfort. That is not only their job. It is their burden. Watchdogs respond to whistles and whistles need whistleblowers; and between them if they can ask what others have not dared, if they can, if I may be permitted this, boldly go where none have gone before; if they can, as they say, rattle a few cages, then that is all to the good.

That day Justice Patel ruled in favour of free and fair journalism.

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