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Feel ‘ashamed’ over esteemed High Court not being able to render justice due to connectivity issues: Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya

Justice Bhattacharyya observed on 16th July 2021 while directing the Central Project Coordinator to show cause in writing, by 3 P.M. during the day, as to why proceedings should not be drawn up against the High Court Administration, including the Registrar General and the Central Project Coordinator, in particular, for criminal contempt of Court due to continuous interference in virtual hearings in a court in each and every matter.

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Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya of Calcutta High Court has condemned the court administration over latches in internet connectivity issues, leading to delay in court proceedings and verdicts.

“This has become a regular feature and I feel ashamed that our esteemed Chartered High Court, which has an illustrious history, is being relegated to such insignificance that we cannot render justice to the litigants at large due to mere connectivity issues,” Justice Bhattacharya noted on July 16, while facing Internet issues during a virtual hearing.

“Fie on the system, which cannot deliver justice to its citizens,” said the Judge, while directing the Central Project Coordinator to show cause in writing, by 1500 hrs during the day, as to why the proceedings should not be drawn up against the High Court Administration, including the Registrar General and the Central Project Coordinator, in particular, for criminal contempt of Court due to continuous interference in virtual hearings in a court in each and every matter.

Justice Bhattacharyya stated that he has taken oath to deliver justice to the litigants, who are outside the Courtrooms and beyond the reaches of the air-conditioned rooms accommodating the Judges, and toiling in the sun and the dust outside.

“Sitting in Court and playing dumb charades during virtual hearings with the advocates, due to major disruptions in virtual services, has become a joke by now and does not tantamount to adjudication of matters, but is a mere circus on show before the public,” Justice Bhattacharyya further stated.

Since the matter was adjourned on July 19, it was again taken up for the limited purpose of passing the order pertaining to the above show cause notice. It was observed that the show cause notice only showed that the endeavour was going to increase the internet speed from two mbps to 100 mbps, an excuse which has been there for the past month. He further observed that at least 150 posts for Data Entry Operators, System Analysts and Programmers were there, but even after the sanction of the government, recruitments have not taken place as yet.

Justice Bhattacharya was surprised to know that the matter was transferred overnight to the Divisional Bench for the purpose of hearing on merits and it was listed before his court, specifically to address the internet issue. He observed that he did not issue a criminal contempt, but stopped short. There was no order passed in a civil revisional case under Article 227 of the Constitution appealable before a Division Bench. So, to transfer a case to a divisional bench is highly questionable, since the judge was willing to hear the matter on both dates and these matters are heard by single Judges as per the Appellate Side Rules of the Calcutta High Court, he added.

The Judge further said, “Chutzpah (Yiddish) is probably not appreciated in the higher echelons of power. However, opacity creates whispers in the corridors and is not healthy for a judicial system. The ‘Master of Roster’ concept cannot be equated with the ‘Master of all I survey,’ even as per the Supreme Court‘s interpretation.” 

He further observed, “The power of assignment springing from the ‘Master of Roster’ concept confines the Chief Justice’s administrative power to assign specific Benches for taking up specific types of matters, which cannot be exercised at the whims of the RG or even the Acting Chief Justice.”

He also observed that this sudden transfer, which was done after the conclusion of court hours was not just because of mere modus operandi, but also from the fact that in his previous order on July 16, 2021, he made certain caustic comments against the entire High Court administration including the RG and all concerned.

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He further stated that at no point of time, he was ever contacted by the Registrar General or the Acting Chief Justice through His Lordship’s Secretary or O.S.D. (Officer on Special Duty) seeking either his consent or at least having the courtesy to inform him about such assignment, which negates his judicial order in an administrative capacity.

“I have serious doubts about the transparency of system of dispensation of justice in our court, in view of the above chain of events. Justice Bhattacharya observed. He further stated that he has not learnt to violate judicial decorum and propriety in his entire practice as an advocate and Justice of Calcutta High Court, ergo he feels appropriate that by following the basic tenets of transparency and judicial decorum, the matter ought to be heard on merits by the Division Bench.

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