Delhi HC turns 50: Kejriwal alleges phone-tapping of judges, DHCBA boycotts & more

The Delhi High Court celebrated 50 golden years since its inception today at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi. Prime Minster Narendra Modi along with Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur, Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad, Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal graced the occasion with their presence.

The function began with Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court G. Rohini welcoming the distinguished guests. After presenting the mementos to the guests, a documentary on the Delhi High Court was broadcasted.

When called upon to address the audience, PM Modi began his speech on a lighter note before the intent audience.

“I have never had the honour to be inside a courtroom. I’ve heard that the atmosphere there is quite intense and I can feel the effect of that here today. [The Delhi High Court] has completed fifty years! Smile a little! (smiles)”

Modi also spoke at length about Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and the sacrifices he made for the nation instead of choosing a comfortable life as a barrister. The PM addressed several issues faced by the judiciary in disposing off the cases pending before them stating that it is the efforts and the contribution of the legal community that can create a road map for the future development in India.

On the flipside, Chief Minister of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal in his speech made serious allegations regarding the tapping of judges’ phone calls addressing the issue of violation of the independence of the judiciary. He stated,

“I don’t know if it is true or not, but if this is true, then it’s dangerous. Where is the independence of the judiciary then?”

The allegations were immediately refuted by the Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad who said,

“I wish to deny, with all the authority at my command, that the phones of judges have been tapped in India at all.”

Prasad spoke at length about the jurisdictional journey of the Delhi High Court from Lahore High Court to Shimla and Punjab and finally the establishment of the Delhi High Court with merely four “outstanding” judges.

Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung spoke about the stellar contributions made by the first four judges in making the Delhi High Court what it is today. He stated,

“We all know how in India, like other evolved democracies, courts occupy a critical position in not just preserving the rule of law but in also preserving a sound and robust democratic order.”

He quoted Martin Luther King in this regard, quoting,

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable.  Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels inevitability.  Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur then took stage talking about how Delhi High Court had emerged as a premier institution in the country over the period of time.

“In my time as the Chief Justice, I must have processed hundreds of proposals for elevation to the bench and there has hardly been a proposal that I’ve seen in which candidates when asked to submit their choice of which court they would like to serve and Delhi High Court hasn’t been the first choice.” 

He further stated,

“Delhi High Court is the mecca for any person in the legal community. Just like it is in politics. People who want to make a mark and want to be noticed, gravitate towards Delhi. The litmus test of a person’s professional capability is if you can make a mark in Delhi.”

He also spoke about the co-existence between the Bar and the Bench in the legal community stating,

“Talent from all across the country has come to the Delhi Bar. Once the Bar is rich, the Bench is bound to be equally rich because the Bar is ultimately the mother of the bench.” 

The speeches was followed by the release of a commemorative volume of the Delhi High Court released before the crowd by the Prime Minister along with the other guests on the dias.

The function was concluded by Badar Durrez Ahmed, J. who was designated as the Chairperson of the Overseeing Committee for the grand celebrations.

“When I told Modi ji about the progress the Delhi High Court has made in the past years, he asked me – how is it that more people are not aware of this? I told him it’s because unlike other governmental bodies, we don’t have a PR department.”

He further thanked the Chief Minister for always encouraging requests for infrastructural expansion.

It was not all good news though.

The function was boycotted by a group of advocates from the Delhi High Court Bar Association due to alleged arbitrariness in sending out the invites for the event stating that majority of the members who contributed in achieving the milestone of 50 years have been ignored by the Judicial Administration.

In a statement released earlier today by Rajiv Khosla President of the DHCBA, he stated,

“My regrets for not witnessing this function, though I honestly wanted to be a part of this historic event. Ignorance of veteran members and young members of the Bar Association is forcing me to remain on their side. Lawyers are a part and parcel of the judicial system and without them, this court has no meaning.”