Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Harishankar in the Delhi riots case offer a rich study on how the composition of bench can influence the result of a case and how it can even produce diametrically different approaches.
Activist Harsh Mander filed the petition seeking independent probe into Delhi riots and also registration of FIR on allegations of hate speeches by politicians, reports Live Law
The petition was heard by a bench comprising Justices Dr S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh on Wednesday.
Another bench comprising of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar considered the case on Thursday.
Proceedings from the bench led by Justices Dr S Muralidhar and Talwant Singh
On Wednesday, Justice S Muralidhar said that the petition was being heard considering the urgency of the matter.
"Situation out there is very unpleasant", Justice Muralidhar remarked.
When the Solicitor General sought for adjournment, Justice Muralidhar replied "Isn't lodging of FIRs against the culprits an urgent matter?"
"There are videos that hundreds of people have watched. Do you still think it's not an urgent matter?", Justice Muralidhar asked.
When the police officer present in the Court and the Solicitor General (SG) claimed that they had not seen the videos containing alleged provocative speeches, the Court arranged for the playing of videos in court for their viewing.
The SG later tried to dissuade the bench from passing orders by saying that the "situation was not conducive" for registering FIR.
The SG said: "We will register FIR at the appropriate time. Now situation is not conducive."
Justice Muralidhar did not appreciate the submission and replied "What is the appropriate time, Mr Mehta? The City is burning".
Delhi police was granted one days' time by the bench to take a decision on registering FIR in respect of the alleged inflammatory speeches.Emphasizing the need for prompt action, Justice Muralidhar said: "Every day's delay in registering FIR is crucial. The more and more you delay, the more problems are getting created."
Proceedings from the bench led by Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Harishankar
Another bench comprising of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Harishankar considered the matter on Thursday.
The case was originally listed before the bench headed by CJ Patel on February 26. . However, he was on leave and the matter was considered by a bench led by, Justice Muralidhar.
Thursday's bench did not share the sense of urgency which was expressed by bench the day before. The bench seemed to be even unaware of the "speeches". When the SG mentioned "speeches" in his submissions, Chief Justice Patel asked "speeches about what?"
Solicitor General had to then clarify that he was referring to the alleged hate speeches.
Decision of the police to defer taking a decision on the plea for registration of FIRs was conveyed by the SG to the bech. The SG repeated yesterday's submission that the "situation was not conducive" for FIR.
This submission, which was shot down by Justice Muralidhar on February 26, found acceptance before the bench February 27.
It was submitted that Police has gone through all the videos and needs more time to take appropriate action as the situation is not conducive today. The bench recorded this submission in the order, and granted four weeks' time for the Union Government to file their counter affidavit in the case.
The matter has been now posted to April 13.
One bench wanted action on FIR within 24 hours; the other bench is comfortable with granting more than four weeks for the same!
The counsel for the petitioner Senior Advocate Collin Gonslaves pleaded for a closer date, saying that people were dying every day. This was not heeded to by the bench.
A petition seeking action on alleged police brutalities against students of Jamia Milia University was listed before the same bench last year in December. It had granted a fairly long adjournment by posting it to February 4. When that case was considered on February 4, the bench granted a further adjournment till April 29.