Wrong to think only ‘fancy’ cases reach Constitution Benches, says CJI

Chief Justice of India Justice D.Y Chandrachud. File
| Photo Credit: PTI

Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud on Friday told a lawyer to disabuse his mind of the notion that the Supreme Court constitutes Constitution Benches to hear “fancy” matters which have nothing to do with the daily travails of the ordinary people.

The Chief Justice said that in cases like the Article 370 abrogation challenge, the court had listened to the “voice of the nation” with stakeholders from the Valley participating in the recently-concluded marathon hearings.

Chief Justice Chandrachud pulled up advocate Mathews Nedumpara for his letter to the top court’s Secretary General, saying the court was “wasting time” hearing Constitution Bench cases and should focus on public interest petitions to benefit the common man.

“You may think that a Constitution Bench hearing on the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution is irrelevant… But that is not what the petitioners in the case and the government think,” the Chief Justice addressed Mr. Nedumpara, who wrote the letter.

The Chief Justice said not every Constitution Bench case was about the interpretation of the Constitution.

“If you had come and sat in our court the day before yesterday you would have seen us in a Constitution Bench dealing with a matter that touches upon the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of drivers across the country… The issue was whether a person who holds a light motor vehicle can drive a commercial vehicle… So, please disabuse your mind that the Supreme Court is only dealing with some fancy constitutional matters which have no bearing on the lives of ordinary people,” Chief Justice Chandrachud told the lawyer.

Mr. Nedumpara said he was not against the court hearing Constitution Bench matters, but his objection was to the court hearing issues of public policy without hearing the public. “The public is not heard,” he said.

“Even there you are wrong. In the Article 370 case, we had groups of individual intervenors on both sides who came and addressed us from the Valley. We have been hearing the voice of the nation in that case,” Chief Justice Chandrachud said.

Mr. Nedumpara is known for his strident and very vocal criticism of the collegium system of judicial appointments. He had earlier alleged nepotism within the judicial institution.

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