The Supreme Court on Thursday said the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) cannot assert a right to the entirety of the land measuring 1.33 acres which was allotted by the Centre for housing the apex court archives for converting it into a chamber block for lawyers.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and P.S. Narasimha, said the apex court discharges both judicial and administrative functions and the discharge of its functions implicates diverse stakeholders including lawyers, litigants and the staff engaged in activities of the Supreme Court.
“A holistic view has to be taken on the allocation of available resources by balancing the needs of stakeholders both for the present and the future. These are matters which cannot be resolved by the application of judicial standards and have to be taken up on the administrative side of the Supreme Court. Administrative functioning and decision-making, which the current issue requires, cannot be moved to the judicial side,” it said.
The SCBA had moved the apex court seeking a direction to convert a land measuring 1.33 acres allotted to the top court for the construction of lawyers’ chambers.
The top court declined to entertain the SCBA’s contention that directions should be passed to convert the entire area around Supreme Court as a Supreme Court block so that all buildings across the Supreme Court on Bhagwan Das Road can be utilised for conversion to lawyers’ chambers, and also allotment of a government bungalow presently occupied by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club to the SCBA.
The bench said: “We therefore are unable to subscribe to the reliefs which have been sought in the petition under Article 32. However, we leave it open to the Supreme Court of India on its administrative side to take appropriate decisions bearing in mind the needs of the institution for the present and the future and the interest of all stakeholders.”
During the hearing, senior advocate and SCBA President Vikas Singh had submitted that the Additional Registrar of the Supreme Court informed the SCBA that 0.50 acres out of 1.33 acres of land have been earmarked for construction of a lawyers’ chamber block, subject to a change of use.
He added that since only 400 to 500 chambers can be constructed on the land which has been earmarked, the entirety should be utilised for the construction of chambers for lawyers who are an integral part of the justice delivery system.
Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing on behalf of the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA), submitted that the members of the association are required by the rules governing their practice as advocates-on-record to maintain an office within a stipulated radius of the Supreme Court.
Attorney General R. Venkataramani, appearing on behalf of the Union Government, had submitted that the issue should be taken up on the administrative side by the Supreme Court and that in his own capacity, he will facilitate an attempt to secure the needs of the institution and of its stakeholders.
During the hearing, the bench had indicated that it is fully cognisant of the needs of the lawyers appearing before the Supreme Court who are vital stakeholders in the administration of justice. “Moreover, it was also noted during the course of the dialogue that the litigants are stakeholders as well and while creating or upgrading the existing amenities, the interest and welfare of litigants has to be duly recognised and protected,” it said.
While disposing of the SCBA’s plea, the bench said:A “The process of decision making would also involve consultation with the Bar. SCAORA, SCBA and BCI (Bar Council of India) would be at liberty to address the issue with their representations on the administrative side.”