Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the senior-most judge in the apex court, succeeds Dipak Mishra as the next Chief Justice of India. (Source: PTI)

Why Chief Justice Gogoi Is Streamlining The Practice Of Mentioning Cases

Typically, the Supreme Court’s morning starts with out-of-turn requests. In legal parlance, it’s called mentioning which takes 30-40 minutes before the court starts hearing the matters listed for the day. Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is taking a tough look at the practice.

On his first day after taking oath, he said the court is finalising guidelines for mentioning cases. Until then, the only exceptions will be extraordinary situations like a convict on a death row or an eviction being carried out that day, he said.

Before the court starts hearing cases which are on its scheduled for the day, mentioning is allowed for cases listed for another day, Senior Advocate Sajjan Poovayya explained. Apart from the ones which require urgent listing, “you may want to file certain things or not want to file or may want certain documents to be brought on record,” he said. “You mention as regards those as well.”

Chief Justice Gogoi’s predecessor Justice Dipak Misra had reintroduced the practice where only the advocate on record or junior advocates could mention a matter, not senior advocates. That provides young lawyers an opportunity to interact with the bench as usually only senior lawyers argue matters.

Former Chief Justice SH Kapadia had completely stopped the practice of mentioning, said Mohit Paul, an advocate on record in the Supreme Court, recounting changes made by various CJIs. “He would enter the court at 10:30 a.m. and immediately the cases listed for the day were called out.”

Others like Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice TS Thakur and Justice P Sathasivam can be called indulgent, patient or liberal who allowed it, he said. Then there were Justice RM Lodha, Justice HL Dattu and Justice JS Khehar who were strict, forcing the bar to introspect and discern which matters should be mentioned and which shouldn’t, he said. “Justice Dattu brought in the practice of a queue system for lawyers waiting to mention their cases to avoid them from speaking on top of each other.’’

Justice Gogoi doesn’t want the court’s time to be wasted in listing matters that aren’t of grave importance and can wait for a couple of days or a week, according to Paul.

The chief justice expressed concern on indiscriminate use of the practice. When a case was mentioned seeking a First Information Report to be quashed, Justice Gogoi said, “At this rate, the bar will lose the privilege of mentioning,” according to a report in Bar and Bench.

In another instance, Justice Gogoi declined a request for urgent listing in a case that was mentioned immediately after defects were rectified in the petition. “Give the registry a chance; the moment a defect is cleared you want it listed the very next day,” Justice Gogoi said, according to Bar and Bench.

He, however, accepted the request for early listing in cases like deportation of seven Rohingya Muslims and the West Bengal government’s decision of giving Rs 10,000 to Durga Puja organising committees in the state.

Poovayya agrees with the new Chief Justice’s approach, adding that not many courts in other jurisdictions have the concept of mentioning. “Justice Gogoi is doing the right thing. Mentioning takes up a lot of time—30 to 40 minutes. You cannot regulate it by fixing the number of mentionings or the time taken,” Poovayya said. “You should ensure the system is fixed so that the need for mentioning doesn’t arise. It should be an extraordinary option and used very rarely rather than becoming the order of the day.”

There’s a consensus that a better system is needed. “A good part of the day should be used in justice dispensation and deciding the listed cases rather than hearing odd mentioning about filing an affidavit, bringing a matter on the list or moving out of the list,” Poovayya said.

Paul hopes that the new chief justice will continue the practice restarted by his predecessor of allowing only advocates on record and junior advocates to mention cases.