#JudgmentReserved: How much time do SC Judges take to deliver judgments after reserving them?

Reserved

The fact that the Supreme Court concluded hearing arguments and reserved judgment in sixteen cases last week may not mean much in isolation.

However, the gap between the date when the judgment is reserved, and the date when the judgment is delivered could indicate whether the Bench accorded due priority to the delivery of the judgments. If judgments are delivered soon after the conclusion of arguments, it would also mean that the issues debated are fresh in the minds of the judges, when they write the judgments.

The Supreme Court rightly held in Anil Rai v. State of Bihar in 2001 that,

“…the confidence of the litigants in the results of the litigation is shaken if there is unreasonable delay in rendering a judgment after reserving the same.”

Sometimes, the Bench may decide the issues equitably and objectively despite the inordinate delay after the conclusion of arguments, but the supervening factors occurring in the meantime may defeat the purpose of the litigation.

A classic instance is the recent judgment in J Jayalalithaa case, when the judgment was delivered seven months after the conclusion of the hearings. The consequences were the abatement of the charges against the prime accused, who passed away in the meantime. Besides that, a full-scale constitutional crisis was created by another accused in her bid for Chief Ministership, before her acquittal was reversed by the Supreme Court.

The disclosure of information regarding such judgments also has a legal dimension.

The Central Information Commission (CIC) had directed the Supreme Court to maintain its record in such a manner that RTI applicants could be informed of the number of reserved judgments.

A single judge of the Delhi High Court had first dismissed the appeal of the Supreme Court against the directive of the CIC to provide such information to an applicant. A Division Bench of the High Court had later reversed the decision of the single judge. An appeal against the judgment of the Division Bench in the Supreme Court was also dismissed in limine, thus imposing no obligation on the Supreme Court’s Registry to provide such information to the applicants under the RTI Act.

Considering the importance of the principle laid down in Anil Rai, Bar & Bench will strive to provide information, week after week, about the judgments reserved by the Supreme Court. An effort will be made, in due course, to quantify the gap between the dates when the judgments are reserved, and delivered. When the judgments reserved are not delivered within a reasonable period of time, they will be brought to light.

Of the twelve judgments delivered by the Supreme Court last week, six of them were reserved in February 2017. One was reserved on January 24. The remaining five were not reserved at all, and were delivered immediately after the conclusion of arguments.

Justice Kurian Joseph delivered four of these judgments, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman delivered three, while Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, L Nageswara Rao, Deepak Gupta, and Prafulla C Pant delivered one each.

One has to wait and see how many of the sixteen judgments reserved last week will be delivered within the next two or three months, the time-limit fixed by the Supreme Court in the Anil Rai case as the reasonable period for the High Courts to adhere to.

The details of the 16 judgments reserved last week are as follows:

  1. M/s Brakewel Automative Components (India) Pvt Ltd v. P.R.Selvam Alagappan, SLP [c] 20745/2016, heard by Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy, reserved on February 27.
  2. Vipulbhai Mansingbhai Chaudhary v. State of Gujarat, Civil Appeal 14678/2015, heard by Justices J.Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre, reserved on February 27.
  3. Kanthamani v. Nasreen Ahmed (C.A.2714/2008) heard by Justices R.K.Agrawal and Abhay Manohar Sapre, reserved on February 28.
  4. Pawan @ Rajinder Singh and ANR v. State of Haryana (Crl. Appeal 2194/2014) heard by Justices N.V.Ramana and Prafulla C Pant, reserved on February 28.
  5. Rustom Kerawalla Foundation v. State of Maharashtra & Ors. (SLP[c] 29067/2011) heard by Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Uday Umesh Lalit, reserved on February 28
  6. Union of India v. Besco Ltd (SLP[c] 17838/2014) heard by Justices Kurian Joseph and R. Banumathi, reserved on February 28
  7. Baranagore Jute Factory PLC. Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) etc. v Baranagore Jute Factor PLC. etc. (SLP [c] 25733/2015) heard by Justices Kurian Joseph and R Banumathi, reserved on March 1
  8. Ram Singh v Jammu Development Authority, (SLP[c] 25741/14 heard by Justices RK Agrawal and Abhay Manohar Sapre, reserved on March 1.
  9. Kattukulangara Madhavan (Dead) Thr. LRS. v. Majeed & Ors. (Crl. Appeal 400/2006), heard by Justices SA Bobde and L.Nageswara Rao, reserved on March 1.
  10. Suman Singh v. Sanjay Singh (CA 7114/2014) heard by Justices RK Agrawal and Abhay Manohar Sapre, reserved on March 1.
  11. Mohan Kumar v. State of M.P.& Ors. (CA 1412/2008) heard by Justices RK Agrawal and A.M.Sapre, on March 1
  12. Ravish and Anr v R.Bharathi (SLP[c]16722/2016) heard by Justices Kurian Joseph and R Banumathi, reserved on March 1.
  13. Bishnu Sarkar & Ors v. State of West Bengal (Crl. Appeal 703/2008) heard by Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and UU Lalit, reserved on March 2.
  14. Faridabad Complex Administration v. M/s Iron Master India (P) Ltd. (CA 1182/2007) heard by Justices RK Agrawal and AM Sapre, reserved on March 2
  15. Eera Through Dr.Manjula Krippendorf v. State (Govt of NCT of Delhi) and Anr. (SLP (Crl) 2640/2016 heard by Justices Dipak Misra and Rohinton Fali Nariman, reserved on March 2.
  16. Dinesh Yadav v State of Jharkhand (SLP [crl] CRLMP 16556/2016) heard by Justices Dipak Misra and Mohan MShantanagoudar, reserved on March 3.