Senior advocate Dushyant Dave has written a letter to Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi raising concerns about the way in which cases involving the Adani Group were heard by the Supreme Court during its summer vacation – even though these cases were not urgent.
In the letter dated 16 August, a copy of which has been accessed by The Quint, the veteran Supreme Court lawyer has alleged that two cases involving Adani Group of companies were listed out of turn and then disposed of by a vacation bench of Justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah, “in complete contravention of the settled practice of the Supreme Court as also its established Procedure.”
Dave also points out that two other previous matters relating to the Adani Group had been listed before benches headed by Justice Mishra even though they should have, he argues, been listed before other judges instead.
Dave says he deemed it necessary to inform the CJI of these happenings as “an officer of the Court” and requests the CJI to “look into the matter and take corrective steps as deemed appropriate to protect this institution.”
“Misconceived and Malicious”: Adani Group Responds to Dave’s Letter
In response to Dave’s letter, a spokesperson of the Adani Group sent a statement to The Quint calling the allegations “misconceived and malicious.”
Here is the full statement of the Adani Group:
The letter of Mr Dave has come to our notice. In the letter mr Dave has commented on the process of listing the matters in vacation Bench and not on the merits of the case.
It is unfortunate that misconceived and malicious statements against the Hon’able Apex court and our company are made on the listing procedure without proper verifcation.
The arbitration matter was in the list of vacation matters and came for hearing in normal course. It was as per the procedure prescribed for listing in vacation. It was prescribed that arbitration matters which require to be adjudicated expeditiously can be listed with consent of parties to the case- which was done. Mr Dave had in this matter himself appeared for us before Hon’ble Rajasthan high court
Another matter of Adani Power was listed pursuant to application for urgent hearing after due notice to the opposite side advocates.
Thus requisite procedure was strictly followed for listing the matters in vacation.
The insinuations made regarding other matters of adani group are wholly unwarranted.
Why Was the Listing of These Cases Controversial?
Dave notes at the outset of his letter that before becoming CJI, Justice Gogoi was one of the four senior Supreme Court judges who held an unprecedented press conference on 12 January 2018, in which they had raised concerns over the way in which important cases with “far reaching consequences for the nation and the institution” were being selectively assigned by Chief Justices of the court to benches of their preference.
Justice Gogoi confirmed at the press conference that one of the cases where they felt this was happening was the Judge Loya case, which had been assigned to a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra.
Dave claims that since October 2018, the “situation has worsened” and that CJI Gogoi’s decision to include senior judges in the ‘Vacation Benches’ of the Supreme Court “resulted in shocking outcome [sic] in few matters heard during Summer Vacation.”
The senior advocate relies on two cases allegedly relating to the Adani Group to illustrate his point.
Parsa Kenta Collieries vs Rajasthan Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd (heard and disposed of on 21 May 2019)
Dave says that Parsa Kenta Collieries Ltd is a part of the Adani Group. He argues that this case should not have been listed for hearing during the summer vacation of the court as there was no urgency in the matter and before the holidays, no bench of the apex court had said it needed to be heard during the vacation.
To support his claim, Dave points to a circular issued by the Additional Registrar on 9 May 2019 (before the vacations began) which listed the cases which would be listed to be heard during the summer vacations “as per directions of Hon’ble Court”. According to him, this case was included in the list despite the fact that the last order in the case by the Registrar of the court said it was not ready for hearing and was to be listed before the court as per rules – the rules would not, however, have justified listing it during the vacations.
He claims that apart from Parsa’s lawyer and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, other lawyers appearing in the matter were not informed of the listing on 21 May, when the court partly allowed Parsa’s appeal.
M/s Adani Power (Mundra) Ltd vs Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission & Ors (heard and disposed of on 24 May 2019)
Dave points out that case had previously been heard on 1 February 2017 before Justices Chelameswar and Sapre, who had ordered it to be listed in the following week. The matter was not listed or mentioned till 23 May 2019, when the petitioners suddenly asked for an urgent hearing.
The matter was then listed for hearing on the very next day, 24 May, even though, Dave argues, the hearing should never have been entertained as it didn’t fall within the ambit of the court’s circulars of which matters should be heard during vacations. The court concluded arguments and reserved judgment on the same day.
Dave claims that MG Ramachandran, who appeared for the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission, told him that the matter was taken up despite the Commission informing the court that its lawyers were not available on the days (Ramachandran was not the original lawyer on the case, but was briefed by the Commission to appear as a precaution).
Benefits to Adani Group?
Dave alleges that he has been “told that the total benefit to this Corporate client from these two judgments will run into thousands of Crores.” He does not cite any source for this claim and The Quint was not able to verify the same.
He explains why he thinks these listings raise serious questions for the Registry of the court as follows:
“Both these matters were listed taken up and heard without any justification, and in hurry and in an improper manner. As a result, besides causing grave injury to public interest and public revenue, it has caused immense damage to the image of the Supreme Court and the administration of Justice. It is disturbing that the Supreme Court of India should take up regular matters of a large corporate house during summer vacation in such a cavalier fashion and decide them in its favour.”
You can read the whole letter here: