The Supreme Court has taken strong exception to the tendency among litigants to attach opinions by former apex court judges to their PILs in a bid to bolster their claim.
The bench voiced its disapproval with: “If we can’t honour this court, who will do it?”
The court had taken objection to former judges rendering their opinion on the subject during the hearing of a PIL by Grenadiers Association (Rohtak Chapter) on the date of birth controversy of Army Chief General VKSingh.
Chief Justice SH Kapadia did not take kindly to the petitioner, Grenadiers Association (Rohtak Chapter) annexing the opinion of four former CJIs – Justice JS Verma, Justice GB Pattanaik, Justice VN Khare and Justice RC Lahoti – to its petition to back its cause.
Chief Justice Kapadia was so peeved at the opinions being annexed – despite a disclaimer from the former CJIs that they were not to be used in any court proceedings – that he directed the apex court registry not to accept any writ petitions in future if they had such documents annexed.
The registry, the court’s executive wing, was asked to raise objections and not accept a writ petition till such documents were withdrawn. Chief Justice Kapadia said the apex court “registry will carry out this direction in all the matters”.
In another case, the court aired its “despair and anguish” in the course of the hearing of a contempt petition by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) against a manufacturer of pan masala and chewing tobacco for using plastic sachets despite a ban by the apex court.
Justice Ganguly expressed his disgust when he found that the opinion of a former CJI, on what constitutes a sachet, was attached in a pending matter in the case.
The opinion, given on the letter head of a former CJI, said that any packet which had less than half a gram tobacco or four grams of pan masala and was meant for one time use was a sachet.
However, a bigger packet, meant for multiple use, would not technically be a sachet but a pouch.
This enabled the litigant to circumvent the court ban against use of plastic in packaging.
The opinion was procured by the Dharam Pal Satya Pal Group manufacturing Rajnigandha pan masala and Tulsi chewing tobacco and was annexed with their affidavit in response to a contempt notice by the apex court.
Justice TS Thakur observed that the “opinion should have said that it could not be used in any court”, which was not done in this case.
He said this when the chewing tobacco manufacturer told the court that the use of plastic in pouches was not wilful and tendered an apology.
Expressing their displeasure, Justice Ganguly observed: “In this country no value is attached to the question of the honour of this court.”
“Everything melts before money,” Justice Ganguly observed. “If we can’t honour this court, who will?”