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Court Witness’ Life of an SLP, Part 2: It learns to walk

The Miracle of SLP Life
The Miracle of SLP Life
In last month’s column, Court Witness described the labour pains of giving birth to a special leave petition (SLP). But after filing successfully with the goblin-like clerk Bakshi-ji the real work of raising an SLP was apparently only just beginning - now it needs to start taking its first steps...

I cradled the green cardboard-bound volumes in my arms as I went back to the office that day.

In two weeks the matter would be listed on a miscellaneous day before one of the 12 benches of the Supreme Court and the court would decide whether it merited its time and scrutiny.

I imagined that somewhere in a vast office in one of the plush Lutyens’ Delhi bungalows, a day before the hearing, a judge of the Supreme Court would be sitting, poring intently over my carefully drafted SLP, and nodding gravely at my intricately reasoned grounds of appeal.

Perhaps in the course of the hearing a kind word or three would fall from the bench, remarking on the clarity and the conciseness of drafting that is rarely seen in SLPs these days. I would be in court beaming, somewhat bashfully, at this generous and unexpected compliment on my legal skills at the start of a long and glorious legal career.

I opened my SLP to admire my handiwork and reassure myself of my career prospects.

After I’d found the fifth typo within the first three pages, I decided it would not be a good thing for my ego to scrutinise my own efforts with such exactitude. The blissful daydreams of judicial acknowledgement of my brilliance were now replaced with nightmarish scenarios where the judge mercilessly points out all the childish typographical errors in the main petition as I sink lower and lower in my seat, hoping not to be noticed by anyone as the culprit.

Perhaps the judge should not go through my SLP in too much detail, I thought. Still, the volume felt substantial in my hands. That was something.

Advance warning

A short while later, the advance causelists were out: the matter would be listed on a Friday.

And although advance causelists do not specify a bench, I used a trick that court clerk extraordinaire Bakshiji had put up my sleeve to find out which judge would hear my SLP. I would also sound very keyed in to the client.

(The “trick”, by the way, is very simple. Although the advanced causelist does not name any judges, it does mention the numerical code of the judge before whom it will be listed. On the left-hand side of the list, under the SLP No. and the Section No., you are likely to see two numbers separated by a comma like this “84,101”. This refers to the number of the judge in the order in which they are sworn in. For instance, Justice Kapadia’s code is 84 and so on.)

It worked and the client seemed impressed that I could predict the judge, even though the causelist did not say (although technically it did say, of course).

But this was no parlour trick to blind an easily impressed audience. The composition of the bench was the all-important factor that would decide whom to brief.

The formula in the Supreme Court, if you can afford it, seems to be: one eminent senior counsel + one junior senior counsel from same state as presiding judge = guaranteed notice + high chance of interim stay.

Not that both senior counsel would necessarily have to argue but often the madness of miscellaneous days means that it is always good to have a backup.

The combo of senior counsel decided, it was time to take the SLP for its first walk, about the posh parts of town.

Continued in: SLP Quadrilogy (Part 3): First day of school, SLP gets educated by Eminent Senior Counsel, disciplined by Junior

Court Witness is an advocate of the Supreme Court of India and tweets @courtwitness1.

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