Gujarat: Two days after scathing order on mishandling coronavirus pandemic, govt lawyers move HC 'discreetly'

Last Updated 25 May 2020, 17:26 IST
Two days after a scathing order passed by the Gujarat high court criticising the state government for mismanaging the coronavirus outbreak in the state, a controversy erupted after senior government lawyers "discreetly" moved a civil application on Monday, despite it being national holiday for Eid, and held an urgent hearing without allowing lawyers representing the litigants to participate.

Read: HC questions Gujarat govt over COVID-19 testing in state
It is the same set of litigation in which justice Pardiwala slammed the state government for mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic and termed Ahmedabad's civil hospital as "worst than a dungeon" for rising death numbers on Saturday. The court also questioned role of health minister and bureaucrats for not able to contain the virus special the condition of civil hospital in Ahmedabad where nearly 400 patients have died. By Monday evening death toll in Ahmedabad alone crossed 700 while total casualty in the state was recorded at 888.
The civil application was moved by government before the division bench led by justice J B Pardiwala, whose content was not known immediately. However, none of the lawyers including the amicus curie BJ Trivedi, appointed by the division bench, were informed about the urgent hearing. As a matter of fact, according to a written complaint filed by Trivedi against the state's move, it has been alleged that "a government pleader instructed an officer of high court registry not to send the link (of video conference) to any other advocates."

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"This is shocking and amazing as the said officer is attached to the registry as a very senior officer and is not supposed to take any orders from the Government Pleader. A detailed inquiry is the crying need of the hour and till then, the said officer is required to be suspended," Trivedi has stated in the letter addressed to the chief justice of the high court justice Vikram Nath.
The letter also questions that it was "equally shocking that when the hearing took place, the Division Bench also permitted the proceedings to take place without presence of any other advocates appearing either as Amicus Curie or appearing for respective parties. This is unprecedented and such practice is to be deprecated."

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The letter goes on to say, that "This unsavory incident will certainly not be a good omen, when we are all trying to go for Video Conference hearing, as now all will have doubts, as to whether something may not happen behind their back."

Another written complaint by a senior advocate Anshin H Desai says that "It is a matter of judicial discipline and decorum that in a pending or a disposed off matter, if any application is filed, all the parties are required to be supplied copies of the pleadings." It says that as soon as he and other advocate came to know about the urgent hearing, they called an officer identified as A T Ukrani, who handles IT cell in the the high court. The officer told Desai to approach the Registrar, Judicial which he did.

"I was told by the Registrar, Judicial that the government pleader Manisha Luvkumar-Shah has mentioned in a note or something that no one is required to be served with a copy, that no one else is concerned, and that 'no notice' or an advanced copy to the other side is required. And, I am also conveyed that on such a request, the Chief Justice permitted circulation at 4 PM today," the letter claims. Despite repeated attempts government pleader Shah didn't respond to calls or returned messages.

Desai's letter further said, "It seems that the Court has been misled. Without a copy of any such application, the registry of Gujarat High Court never permits circulation and in the past we have frantically pleaded to the Registry in normal times for circulation, and even after the service of advanced copy, immediate circulation is next to impossible. I wonder how such a circulation was permitted today?"
(Published 25 May 2020, 17:26 IST)

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