The Supreme Court today disposed of the SCBA (Supreme Court Bar Association) petition seeking the conversion of 1.33 acres of land near ITO for building lawyers' chamber blocks.

"SCBA cannot assert a right over 1.33 acres of land allotted to Centre for converting to lawyers chambers," said CJI DY Chandrachud reading out the operative portion of the judgment while presiding a special bench which also comprised Justice SK Kaul and Justice PS Narasimha.

The Court said that these are administrative matters and are not fit for judicial adjudication.

On the issue of conversion of entire area near the Bhagwandass Road as the Supreme Court block the CJI said, that such directions cannot be issued on the judicial side. However, the prayers made by the Supreme Court Bar Association will be considered by the Supreme Court on its administrative side and the process will entail discussion with SCBA, SCAORA, and others stakeholders, with this, the bench disposed of the writ petitions.

This petition was filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association seeking a mandamus directing the Ministry of Urban Development to grant permission for the conversion of the entire land of 1.33 acres allotted to the Supreme Court behind the petrol pump near ITO as a chamber block for lawyers. The Court issued a notice in this matter on 12th September 2022.

The Supreme Court on March 17th, 2023 had reserved its order on a petition filed by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), demanding land for the construction of chambers for lawyers that were allocated to the top court and measuring 1.33 acres. During the hearing, the bench expressed its disinclination to pass judicial orders for converting a land measuring 1.33 acres, that was allotted to the Supreme Court, into chamber blocks for lawyers. However, expressed its inclination to take up the issue with the government on the administrative side. The Chief Justice had observed that "Lawyers are a part of us. It's a part of our institution. If we use our judicial orders, it's a message- look what is the Supreme Court doing. You're taking judicial powers and using it for your expansion. Today it is land, tomorrow it will be something else..." Continuing he said, "We can take it up with the government administratively. This has been the old tradition of judiciary in our country. CJI who represents the institution, we engage with the government, we say look our needs for future are expanding...The government does engage with us on the administrative side"

During the hearing, even the Supreme Court Advocate on Record Association through the Senior Advocate Meenakshi Arora also expressed to be part of hearings stating requirements of AORs to have chambers within 6 km of the Court. BCI Chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra also echoed the concern and expressed that even the bar council has no place to accommodate. He stated that we have to train at home as we have no place.

While reserving the orders, the bench said –"We'll reflect on this. We'll take some time to deliberate and then decide. We'll close this for orders now."

The said piece of land being the last piece of vacant land available near the Supreme Court, the SCBA instituted the present writ petition seeking the entire land admeasuring 1.33 acres for the construction of chambers for its members. The site plan for the construction of chambers on 40% of the land was ready in the tenure of Justice NV Ramana (former CJI) who even wanted to lay the foundation of the chamber block.

The SCBA in the petition had submitted that the plot of land in question can accommodate more than 1000 chambers if the user of the plot is confined to the chambers rather than having a mixed user as part of it is meant for the Archives of the Supreme Court of India while existing facilities available with the Supreme Court can certainly take care of the requirements of Archives.

On March 2, a heated exchange of words was witnessed in the Supreme Court between Justice Chandrachud and Vikas Singh over the allotment of land for lawyers' chambers with the CJI directing the senior lawyer not to raise his voice and leave the court.

Later, the Special Bench of the Supreme Court was constituted to hear the plea of SCBA (Supreme Court Bar Association) relating to the allotment of land for lawyers' chambers.

Cause Title: Supreme Court Bar Association v. Ministry Of Urban Development & Ors and Connected Matter. W.P.(C) No. 640/2022