In the writ petition filed by Advocate Yeshwanth Shenoy before the Kerala High Court arraying Justice Mary Joseph as a respondent, alleging that the Judge is only listing twenty matters a day, the Kerala High Court has directed the Registrar General of the Court to file a counter affidavit.

"Going through the pleadings and the nature of contentions advanced by the petitioner, I am of the considered opinion that the maintainability of the writ petition is doubtful and therefore, without receiving a counter affidavit from the fourth respondent, i.e., the Registrar General of this Court, I think, it may not be appropriate on my part to proceed further either for the consideration of the main relief or the interim relief", the Bench of Justice Shaji P. Chaly said in today's order while adjourning the case to March 21.

In the meanwhile, a Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Shoba Annama Eapen has issued notice on a suo moto contempt petition on February 28 against Advocate Yeshwanth Shenoy, reportedly on the complaint of the Judge concerned. Through its order, the Court has appointed Senior Advocate Seemandini V.P. to assist the Court in the matter.

Both the Writ Petition against the Judge and the Criminal Contempt Petition against the Advocate were filed on the same day, February 27. The Writ Petition arrays the Chief Justice of the High Court, in addition to Justice Mary Joseph as party respondents.

The petitioner has sought a direction to the Registrar to ensure that the listing of matters before the Court of the respondent Judge is done in accordance with the standard criteria applicable to all other Judges of the High Court and the same be not curtailed to just 20 matters.

The Court had on March 3, 2023 directed the Registrar-General of the High Court to engage a counsel in order to proceed further in this matter.

The petitioner has challenged the curtailment of the cause list to just 20 matters before the concerned Judge.

The petitioner has pleaded, “Every other Judge of the Court have on an average a list that stretches to about hundred matters and some of them go beyond 100. The Chief Justice, being the Master of Roster, alone has the power to direct the Registry on listing of matters and no Judge can interfere with the same and direct the Registry to curtail that list. Even with the power of being the Master of Roster, the Chief Justice cannot violate Article 14 of the Constitution as regards matters of listing. Considering the backlog of cases, every court ought to have at least 50 matters listed every day along with a disposal list to clear the back log of cases.”

He further submitted that if every Judge of the Court curtails the list to 20 matters a day, the machinery of the Court would collapse and the judicial work of the Court would cease.

In this case, as per the petitioner, he appeared before the respondent Judge in a matter and the same got dismissed. Even the certified copy of the order was still not given despite applying for the same on the same day. Thereafter, he wrote to the Chief Justice of the High Court for bringing his attention to the curtailment of the list of the respondent Judge.

Following are the points for consideration mentioned in the petition –

1. Whether the Registry can curtail the list to just 20 matters a day before a Judge?

2. Whether Judges have any power to direct the Registry to curtail the listing of matters before their Court?

3. Whether the Chief Justice, as a master of Roster, can act in violation of Article 14 as regards listing of matters before the Judges of the High Court?

The petition says, “In the Petitioner’s almost 22 years of practice, he has not come across a Judge so wantonly acting in breach of the governing principles of law or procedure. … The Petitioner, in discharge of his duty as an advocate, was constrained to file an in-house complaint against the Respondent No.3 with the Respondent No.1 in accordance with the In-House procedure adopted by the Full Court of the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 15 Dec 1999.”

It has been pointed out in the petition that on inquiry, the petitioner was informed that the respondent Judge was lethargic as regards issuance of certified copy and that he lists only 20 matters a day due to which the advocates/litigants have to wait endlessly for even a ‘listing’ of their matters before the said Judge.

“The Petitioner had noticed that during mentioning before the Respondent No.3, some of the matters listed are adjourned and many a times the Respondent No.3 does not even complete the list of 20 matters posted before her. … If every Judge of the High Court limits the number of matters before them to 20, the institution will die its natural death. Already backlog of cases has broken the back of the Judiciary and if every Judge decides to hear only 20 matters a day, then the Institution itself will not survive”, says the plea.

The petitioner stated in his petition that the silence of the Bar probably led to a further direction to the registry to list only 20 matters a day.

The petitioner contended, “What we forget is that there are hard working Judges who hear over 100 matters everyday. There are Judges who have sat through the night. There are Judges who work 18 hour shifts. But what negates all these stories of hard work is the lethargic attitude of a negligible few.”

It was also contended by the petitioner that if lawyers have the fear of the judiciary or from elsewhere, that is not conducive to the effectiveness of the judiciary itself, that would be self-destructive.

He has further urged that “The Respondent No.1 has to ensure that a minimum of 50 matters are listed before every Court in addition to a ‘final disposal’ list before every court to ensure that in case any particular Judges complete the listed matters, final disposal matters are taken up so as to address the issue of backlog of cases.”

Cause Title: Yeshwanth Shenoy v. The Chief Justice, High Court of Kerala & Ors.