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‘Whose Court is it Anyway?’ asks Straight from the Bar

Straight from the Bar ponders the comedies inherent in recent appointments and court business

WLA, the collegium edition
WLA, the collegium edition

The big news at the Supreme Court over the past couple of weeks, apart from the land dispute over the birthplace of India’s greatest ever engineer, has been the a bevvy of collegium appointments, including four new Supreme Court judges and a lot of new high court chief justices (and a whole lot more who didn’t make the cut).

This columnist could not help but see a similarity between this process and the improvisational comedy show ‘Whose line is it anyway?’. Apart from the fact that only the British could create such an absurd institution, the similarity stemmed from the introduction to the show. For the uninitiated, WLA opens with the host calling it ‘the show where the rules are made up and the points don’t matter’.

The collegium could practically adopt this motto with minor modifications- ‘where the justifications are made up and seniority doesn’t really matter’. The collegium has been competing with Virat Kohli’s selections for India’s No. 4 ODI batsman to see who can win the desi WLA.

Once again, Justice Pradeep Nandrajog was superseded for appointment to the Supreme Court despite having been shortlisted by a former collegium almost a year ago.

Justice Nandrajog has been superseded even as two of his junior judges from the Delhi High Court have been recommended for elevation in order to ensure Delhi is adequately represented. Inspired by the Indian army, he seems to have gone ahead and taken his anger out on a bunch of trees.

Justice Akil Kureshi meanwhile was overlooked for appointment as a chief justice once again. The collegium then backtracked and appointed him to the Tripura high court having earlier earmarked him for Madhya Pradesh with no reasons assigned.

Of course, these decisions of the highest court of the land are not arbitrary and are made ‘keeping in mind seniority and representation’ and are ‘in the interest of the administration of justice’.

What the collegium means by these phrases is a different story altogether.

It might even have been a little worrisome if the decisions were in fact arbitrary. The only difference between WLA and Supreme Court appointments is that no one is laughing.

Perhaps Justice Nandrajog’s niece will be get the honour of becoming Chief Justice of India by superseding 32 judges in order to correct this historic wrong.

But if the nieces and nephews of those 32 supersede another 32 whose descendants supersede another 32…. meh, the rules are made up, this won’t matter. It’s not like the Supreme Court insists on correcting all historic wrongs anyway, choosing to repeat some parts of its history, no matter how sordid.

Media enjoys circus

Someone who has found it as difficult (as WLA, not the Supreme Court, oh no) to pretend to hold on to any semblance of reality in the past few weeks are the mainstream legal media.

It was reported that Justice Kotwal of the Bombay High Court asked accused persons why they were keeping Tolstoy’s War and Peace at home, saying that it is about a war in another country.

It transpired that the book in question was in fact War and Peace in Jungleland.

While it is possible that the first person to report it misheard the name of the book, the quote attributed to the judge was clearly a figment of the reporter’s imagination. And here we thought making up quotes was the job of this column.

Perhaps he or she should consider a career trying to justify judicial appointments.

Of course, they might face stiff competition, apart from the incumbents (and Virat Kohli), such as the fellow who made up the rumour about Tanmay Mehta becoming the youngest ever Senior Advocate when he didn’t even apply.

Such aversion to the truth seems quite understandable though, given that even judges can get suspended for that grave crime.

The view in 10 years:

  1. A judge of the Meghalaya High Court is elevated to the Supreme Court a week after his appointment as a high court judge because his uncle was superseded by the earlier 32. So, he is elevated from an all-India seniority of 200.

  2. The Supreme Court goes past ADM Jabalpur and Sitaram Yechury’s matters by saying that habeas corpus means that a virtual reality photo of detenues will be provided. But the order is unenforceable in Kashmir due to the lack of internet as the curfew is still gradually being lifted.

The author of Straight from the Bar is an advocate. Alex is a pseudonym. The post is satire. Mostly. Last week’s and other columns in the series are available here.

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