Case of a crowded Supreme Court and a closed door

FP

The anguish of an octogenarian who was almost crushed and that of a senior advocate who had his leg fractured could get the Supreme Court to consider throwing its doors open — literally.

It all transpired when senior advocate Shanti Bhushan appeared for a hearing of one of his cases before a Bench of Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra last week.

As the judges called out the case and waited for him, the senior lawyer struggled to cover the 20 feet from the doors of the courtroom to the front. When he finally made it to the Bench, an agitated and out-of-breath Bhushan burst out: "It seems it is in public interest that all elderly lawyers, especially those above 70-80 years in age, should be crushed to death in the Supreme Court."

Noting "the crowd of people inside these small courtrooms", Bhushan wondered if "it was a policy" to get old lawyers crushed to death.

The judges said they could not agree with him more that the courtrooms were very small. The Supreme Court complex has 14 courtrooms, of which those at the back are relatively very small considering the number of lawyers, their associates, clerks, litigants, media personnel and other officials crowding them everyday.

"There has to be this problem unless the courtrooms are made big," said the Bench.

Bhushan said he feared a stampede similar to the one in Allahabad recently. "Someday some old lawyers will die in a stampede in the Supreme Court," he said.

The advocate went on to add that as if the problem of small courtrooms was not enough, one door of the courtrooms was kept shut despite people jostling to come in and get out. "I also remember having approached the registrar of the Supreme Court with this complaint. I was told this was done in accordance with the orders of the then chief justice of India," he said.

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