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Justice Gautam Patel strikes again with most sarcastic (and hard-hitting) order against adjournment culture ever written

...and it makes Patel’s point crystal clearly.

Is this the most sarcastic order ever written by a high court judge? And is it harsh or fair?
Is this the most sarcastic order ever written by a high court judge? And is it harsh or fair?

After his Indigo-GoAir order went viral last year, Bombay high court Justice Gautam Patel has delivered another zinger, with this one dripping with even more sarcasm and innuendo, scheduling the next hearing date for 2020 (actually, for late 2020, more than three-and-a-half years from now).

The order was first tweeted by TheGoanPatiala (@TheGoanPatiala), who described it as “unflinchingly unapologetically Justice Gautam Patel #BombayHighCourt”. Quite.

In his pithy two-page order (see above), Patel begins apparently gently but it becomes quickly obvious that sarcasm is the name of the game, with very real consequences for the parties.

Patel begins his order with how counsel Nimay Dave - instructed by Clasis Law partner Mustafa Motiwala - was seeking “several weeks’ time to file a rejoinder” on behalf of his client, Gillette India, in its case against the India chapter of multinational FMCG rival Reckitt Benckiser.

(From what we can make out, it appears to be a case alleging false advertising for women’s hair removal products, which both parties have in their stable of products).

According to court records, the case had been filed relatively recently (as far as court cases go) on 22 December 2016, and there had only been one previous hearing, on 11 January 2017. In that first hearing, Patel ordered that an affidavit in reply by the respondent be filed and served “on or before 3 February 2017”, with the “affidavit in reply, if any, to be filed and served” by 17 February 2017.

Clearly anticipating it to be a straightforward matter to adjudicate, Patel then listed the case for final disposal on 22 February.

But from Patel’s latest order, it appears that this affidavit in reply was never filed by 17 February (or by 22 February, the date of the fateful hearing), and Patel is clearly far from amused about the delay and begins his takedown to end all takedowns:

2. Far be it for me to come between Mr Dave and his filings. Since Mr Dave says that there is a substantial Reply and his Rejoinder is likely to be equally substantial, the Rejoinder is to be filed and served in the Registry on or before 15th April 2017. I have no doubt that a Sur-Rejoinder will also then be necessary. Rather than wasting time in an application for adjournment: Affidavit in Sur-Rejoinder to be filed and served on or before 15th June 2017 and this will be followed by a month’s time until 20th July 2017 for an Affidavit in Sur-Sur-Rejoinder.

So far so good, ordering all filing and counter-filing to complete by 20 July 2017 seems like a speedy timeline for getting this case on the road. Hold on though, not so fast, Patel’s not finished and writes:

3. At this point all filings will stop. By then the record should have crossed at least 2000 pages. It will take any Court some time to read all this material. Hence, list the matter for direction very low on board on 3rd November 2020.

Yes, he actually fixes the next date for more than three-and-a-half-years from today (and the official Bombay high court case status reflects this):

But Patel’s not finished yet, and goes on to explain:

4. There is not the slightest urgency, and this is evident from the delay thus far and the application for three weeks’ time for an Affidavit in Rejoinder.

Parties are in the meantime free to advertise, counter-advertise and re-advertise their respective products with such a statements as they believe are permissible or as their in-house legal counsel thinks fit.

Since adjournments by counsel and asking for more time is rather common, we can only surmise that it was either the straw that broke the camel’s back, or that it was something that counsel said in court in a certain manner (if someone was there and can share what happened, please leave a comment below).

It’s also worth noting that senior counsel Mustafa Doctor appeared for Gillette in January with Nimay Dave as his second, but at the 22 February hearing, only Dave was there (perhaps to deliver the bad news of needing more time).

Finally, leaving the door open for Gillette to conclude this case before 2020, but smacking it (and/or its lawyers) very hard in the process, allows Gillette to apply for priority hearing after depositing Rs 10 lakh in advance for having tried to waste Patel’s time (in his own words):

5. No application for priority hearing will be entertained; at least not until the Plaintiffs deposit in advance an amount of not less than Rs.10 lakhs to cover a potential order of costs for this attempt to consume scarce judicial time in a battle over advertisements of rival depilation products for women.

We wonder whether what effect this will have on the speed of future cases before Patel...

We have reached out to Motiwala for comment.

Reckitt Benckiser was represented by Chander Lal in January, instructed by Agrud Partners. Again, at the February hearing, first counsel Lal was not present, with second counsel Sumit Raghani leading with Hardik Sanghavi. Unless Gillette pays up, they may not have to defend their client in court for a while.

We have reached out to Agrud Partners for comment.

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