Within days of taking charge as the Chief Justice of India, Justice J S Khehar has put his thrust on disposing of matters, particularly those PILs that have clogged the docket of the Supreme Court for years. A look at the recent decisions taken by the bench presided over by the new CJI shows a clear-cut resolve to clear the heavy load of cases.
On January 24, the Justice Khehar-led bench transferred a PIL pending before the apex court since 1985 on cleaning of river Ganga to the National Green Tribunal, saying it was no more inclined to monitor the case. Justice Khehar took charge as the CJI at a time when the Supreme Court is grappling with a pendency of 62,537 cases, as on December 31, 2016, with 23 judges as against the sanctioned number of 31.
Justice Khehar has more than once expressed anguish over the failure of different states to file their responses in two PILs, and warned them that it would summon their top officer if they continued to remain negligent. “Is this the Supreme Court or a joke court? Is some panchayat going on here,” an angry Khehar asked a counsel when he sought adjournment for three weeks in a case because of a family function.
When it came to other issues like privacy concerns on WhatsApp and PILs against granting funds to a private college with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother Shivpal as patrons, Justice Khehar posted the matter for consideration during the summer vacation.
The bench presided over by Justice Khehar was more than swift when the court dismissed a PIL for a uniform law on banning the slaughter of animals and their transportation, and another one against the grant of Rs 1 crore to a soldier by the Delhi government for committing suicide over the one rank, one pension issue.
The same bench on January 19 promptly dismissed a 2013 PIL, seeking a declaration for the divorce decree granted by a Church court to be considered as valid, saying the 1996-judgement by the apex court had already settled the law on the point of marriage and divorce among Christians.