The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court shows way by shutting out holiday

New Delhi, April 15: Members of Parliament made heavy weather of working on Ram Navami, but the Supreme Court today decided to stay open on the day for the first time in history.

Like MPs, led by the BJP, who were upset that Parliament was to resume its budget session on Monday, lawyers were left an unhappy lot by Chief Justice R.C. Lahoti's decision.

The government budged under pressure, and MPs had their holiday, but not the chief justice.

Praveen H. Parekh, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, requested Lahoti that Ram Navami be declared a holiday in keeping with practice because the members wanted it so. The request followed yesterday's announcement by the government that Monday would be a holiday.

Ram Navami and Ambedkar Jayanti are not scheduled holidays for the court, but every year it follows in the footsteps of the government.

The Supreme Court has its own rules and the chief justice has administrative jurisdiction. But in the past, chief justices declared holidays as they deemed fit.

This time, the file for declaring a holiday had gone to Lahoti's chamber as usual for approval, but till well after lunch there was no word either from him or the registrar general.

As the day was drawing to a close and the proceedings were over with the chief justice preparing to wind up, he observed that it was 'sad' lawyers wanted a holiday declared when he was wondering how to 'cope up with' the mounting load of pending cases.

'This is unfortunate... lawyers want holidays on unscheduled days.... We have to work and try and see that the loads of cases pending are over.... Litigants go through hell,' Lahoti said.

Earlier, Justice S.N.Variava, too, had observed that 'no unscheduled holiday' should be allowed in the apex judiciary when there was a reference by one of the lawyers in the case he was hearing that Monday being Ram Navami would be 'as usual' declared a holiday.

Parekh said he 'only genuinely conveyed the request of the members of the bar, whose elected representative is me'.

He added that there was nothing 'personal' in the remarks of the chief justice. This comment was made in the backdrop of discussions in some sections that Lahoti's remarks were directed against the request by Parekh.

A senior counsel said the chief justice was 'livid' and did not want an extra 'unscheduled' holiday, especially on a day 'miscellaneous matters' would be listed for hearing.

Lawyers reacted with anger. One of them pointed out that an 'unscheduled holiday' was declared on April 14 for Ambedkar Jayanti.

'We are not a secular country... we are a peculiar country. For the first time the Supreme Court is going without leave on Ram Navami,' he said.

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