The people who can unlock Supreme Court doors at midnight

There is a backlog of 60,000 cases in the Supreme Court (SC) of Bharat & 2.67 crore cases overall across the various courts in the country. The minimum average period to complete any trial in Bharat is six years, which tends to increase if the case is dragged till the Supreme Court.

There are 3 main reasons for this huge backlog -1) Lack of judicial infrastructure – courtrooms, legal staff, digitisation; 2) shortage of judges at all levels due to  (a) chaotic recruitment process for lower courts, (b) turf war between SC and Union Government over modifying the flawed Collegium system; 3) Procedural delays & abuse/gaming of legal provisions like appeals, stays, PILs etc.

Other factors like a royal vacation schedule for the Supreme Court – 6-7 week summer vacation; 1 week vacations for Holi, Dussehra, Diwali each; and 2 weeks vacation for Christmas/New Years – also play a part.

The upshot of all this is that for the common citizen, access to speedy justice is a distant dream, and most of us just hope that we never have to see the inside of a courtroom in our life. However, there is an elite liberal clique in this country which gets instant access to justice 24×7.

There have been 3 recent incidents wherein the Supreme Court bypassed the normal channels and even convened at midnight to hear cases brought by this elite group –

1.) A 3-judge SC bench held a marathon four-hour long, post-midnight hearing, on a petition filed by Congress challenging the Karnataka Governor’s decision inviting BJP to form the government after emerging as single largest party in Karnataka assembly elections.

The Congress brains trust consisting of P Chidambaram, Ahmed Patel, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Vivek Tankha and Randeep Surjewala was so confident that their petition would be heard in the night itself that they decided to wait at the Taj Mansingh hotel coffee shop for the court summons after filing the petition with the registrar at 9.30 PM. The hearing started in the Supreme Court at 2:10am and ended at 5.47 AM.

2.) 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon’s umpteenth mercy petition was heard and rejected in an unprecedented midnight hearing by a three-member Supreme Court bench. Senior lawyers Anand Grover and Yug Chowdhury managed to get a hearing at 3.20 AM to try and stop the execution scheduled at 7 AM.

3.) SC CJI HL Dattu granted stay on arrest of controversial Modi-baiting activist Teesta Setalvad who was facing charges of cheating and criminal breach of trust over alleged embezzlement of funds she had raised for two NGOs who were working for victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Setalvad’s counsel & senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal managed to get the stay from a CJI-led bench hearing another matter citing emergence of an “extraordinary situation”, on the same day that Gujarat High Court had rejected Setalvad’s application for anticipatory bail paving the way for her custodial interrogation by police.

That was not all – the two judge SC bench which was hearing Setalvad’s case and found the charges against her “grave” was suddenly changed, although neither judge recused themselves. A new bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and Adarsh Kumar Goel was assigned to the case, and this bench in another exceptional decision decided to refer the matter to a larger bench, something only done in cases involving complex constitutional issues.

Latest news on the case is that SC has extended the interim protection from arrest granted to Teesta Setalvad till May 31. This means Setalvad has successfully evaded arrest and managed to stall Gujarat police’s investigation for over 3 years now.

Some other past instances when SC has heard cases late at night are listed in this article – 3 were cases where stay was sought on execution of death sentence, one was to determine another high-profile political battle in 1998, another was after the demolition of Babri Masjid, and one was a bail plea of a prominent businessman L M Thapar.

These two tweet sum it up perfectly –


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