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Court Cuts: The SC judiciary's recurring interest in ML Sharma's injuries wins him free steno services today

Supreme Court takes cognisance of ML Sharma's finger
Supreme Court takes cognisance of ML Sharma's finger

An uninterested bench of the Supreme Court of India has asked a bystander advocate to provide his stenographer to advocate ML Sharma to help him type his suggestions to the court in a dubious case the bench had not showed much interest in.

Sharma said he wished to file his suggestions in a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by him, which challenged the constitutional validity of the court fees charged under the Supreme Court of India Rules, 2013.

Sharma had submitted before the court that his suggestions would convince the bench in favour of his PIL petition, despite the bench having called it "not a serious matter".

When Sharma requested the court to adjourn the matter to Monday (2 May 2016) so that he could submit his suggestions in writing, Justice Anil R Dave asked Sharma, pointing at Sharma's ostensibly injured finger in a bandage:

“Mr. Sharma, your finger is injured, how would you write the suggestions?”

Dave then asked an advocate waiting his turn, to provide his stenographer to Sharma to help him type his suggestions.

This is at least the second time that the court has ‘taken cognisance’ of the injuries suffered by hapless Sharma.

Last year, the then-Chief Justice of India (CJI) HL Dattu had enquired about Sharma’s shoulder injury, when the latter tried to intervene in an ongoing hearing wearing a bandage.

Dattu had asked Sharma how he had received the injury and told him:

“Mr. Sharma, you need to take rest. Some regular rest.”

The case at hand today

The PIL listed today - Writ Petition No 220 of 2016 [PIL] – Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India & Anr - was filed by Sharma inter alia with the following prayer:

Be pleased to issue proper writ of mandamus or proper writ direction to quash impugned court fees set out in the third schedule of part IX of the Supreme Court rule of 2013 published in the gazette notification GSR 368 (e) dt. 29Th May 2014 (filed as Annexure P-2) being out of jurisdiction, unconstitutional and ultra vires to the constitution of India, etc.

The PIL was filed on 29 March 2016 along with an application for stay. The PIL was listed today for hearing before a bench comprising of Justices Anil R Dave and Adarsh Kumar Goel.

As soon as Sharma had started his arguments, Dave J remarked:

“It is not a serious matter Mr. Sharma”.

However Sharma proceeded with his arguments claiming that litigants before the Supreme Court cannot be asked to pay court fees as justice was a right. To substantiate his arguments Sharma referred to articles 145 and 146 of the Constitution of India.

Article 145 of the Constitution empowers the SC to make rules for “regulating generally the practice and procedure of the court". Article 146 of the Constitution discusses about the “officers and servants and the expenses of the Supreme Court”.

Article 146 (3) provides:

The administrative expenses of the Supreme Court, including all salaries, allowances and pensions payable to or in respect of the offices and servants of the court, shall be charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India, and any fees or other moneys taken by the court shall form part of that Fund.

However article 145 (1)(f) provides that:

145. Rules of Court, etc

(1) Subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament the Supreme Court may from time to time, with the approval of the President, make rules for regulating generally the practice and procedure of the court including:

(f) rules as to the costs of and incidental to any proceedings in the court and as to the fees to be charged in respect of proceeding therein;

However the bench was not impressed by arguments of Sharma and asked him either to withdraw the petition or it would dismiss the case.

Sharma, however, did not give up and kept on trying to persuade the bench in his favour. Sharma further submitted that it was a fundamental right of the citizens of India to approach the Supreme Court and hence court fee should not be charged. Sharma submitted:

"If the money is not coming from the consolidated funds because of […] politicians, why should citizens pay"

Dave told Sharma:

“I'm a qualified Chartered Accountant and I know how important money is. Let money come. From this pocket or the other pocket.”

The bench again asked Sharma either to withdraw the petition or get it dismissed.

Sharma on the other hand asked the bench to allow him a chamber hearing. Still unconvinced, the bench again indicated towards dismissal of the petition. However Sharma again asked the bench not to dismiss the case but keep it on Monday (2 May 2016). He said:

“People are suffering… I have something in mind. [After I explain], Your Lordships would be satisfied.”

Sharma told the court that he would provide it with his suggestions. Dave J however told him that they cannot keep the matter pending as the court was already overburdened with cases.

After numerous attempts, Sharma was finally able to convince the bench not to dismiss his petition today and keep it on 2 May 2016.

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