The court aired its disapproval with an observation: “If we can’t honour this court who will do it?”
The apex court had taken objection to former judges rendering opinion on matters pending before it in the course of the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) by Grenadiers Association (Rohtak Chapter) on the date of birth controversy of Army Chief General V.K. Singh.
Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia did not take kindly to the petitioner annexing the opinion of four former chief justices of India (CJI) J.S. Verma, G.B. Pattanaik, V.N. Khare and R.C. Lahoti, to the petition.
Chief Justice Kapadia was so peeved by the fact that these opinions were annexed, despite a disclaimer from the former chief justices of India that they were not to be used in any court proceedings, that he directed the apex court registry not to accept any petitions in future if documents were annexed to them.
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the court’s executive wing, was asked to raise objections and not accept a writ petition till such documents were withdrawn.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 that the apex court “registry will carry out this direction in all the matters”.
The court’s “despair and anguish” found expression 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 for marketing their products despite ban by the apex court.
As Prashant Bhushan, appearing for CPIL, started arguing, Justice Ganguly pointed to the opinion given by a former CJI and expressed his disgust with the opinion being attached in a pending matter.
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 gram of pan masala and was meant for one time use, was a sachet.
Any 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, said the opinion.
The opinion was procured by Dharam Pal Satya Pal Group manufacturing Rajnigandha pan masala and Tulsi chewing tobacco and was given with their affidavit in response to a contempt notice by the apex court.
Justice T.S. Thakur, also on the bench, said 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 intentional and tendered an apology.
Justice Ganguly observed: “In this country no value is attached to the question of the honour of this court.”
“Every thing melts before money,” Justice Ganguly observed. “If we can’t honour this court, who will?”