The Supreme Court yesterday rejected the writ petition filed by the SCBA (Supreme Court Bar Association) holding that the SCBA cannot assert a right to the entirety of the land admeasuring 1.33 acres allotted by the Union Government for housing the Supreme Court Archives for converting it into a chamber block for lawyers.

The three-Judge Bench comprising CJI D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice S.K. Kaul, and Justice P.S. Narasimha observed, “SCBA cannot assert a right to the entirety of the land admeasuring 1.33 acres, which has been allotted by the Union government for housing the Supreme Court Archives, for converting it into a chamber block for lawyers. The Supreme Court of India discharges both judicial and administrative functions. The discharge of its functions implicates diverse stakeholders including lawyers, litigants and the staff engaged in activities of the Supreme Court. A holistic view has to be taken on the allocation of available resources by balancing the needs of stakeholders both for the present and the future.”

The Bench said that such matters cannot be resolved by the application of judicial standards and have to be taken up on the administrative side of the Supreme Court and the administrative functioning and decision-making cannot be moved to the judicial side.

Senior Advocates Vikas Singh and Meenakshi Arora appeared on behalf of the SCBA, Senior Advocates Manan Kumar Mishra, S Prabhakaran, and Debi Prasad Dhal appeared on behalf of the Bar Council of India while Attorney General R Venkataramani appeared on behalf of the Union.

Facts -

The SCBA sought a writ of mandamus directing the Union Ministry of Urban Development to grant permission for the conversion into a chamber block for lawyers of an entire tract of land admeasuring 1.33 acres situated near the ITO, which has been allotted to the Supreme Court. It further sought the conversion of the entire area around the Supreme Court as ‘a Supreme Court Complex’.

It sought such a conversion so that all the buildings across the Supreme Court on Bhagwan Das Road including the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia, Indian Law Institute, and Indian Society of International Law can be utilized for conversion into chambers or for being redeveloped as a chamber block / for activities of the Supreme Court or for any other amenities for lawyers. It also sought to allot a government bungalow which was being occupied by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club to the petitioner.

The Supreme Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel noted, “There is no gainsaying in the fact that the members of the Bar, together with the litigants, have an important role in the functioning of the judicial institution of the Supreme Court. During the course of the hearing, we have abundantly indicated to the learned senior counsel that the views of the Bar would be solicited and deliberations will take place on the administrative side with the members of the Associations and the Bar Council.”

The Court asserted that it would not be appropriate to entertain a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution seeking a direction that the entirety of the land admeasuring 1.33 acres should be allotted for the construction of a chamber block for lawyers.

“We therefore are unable to subscribe to the reliefs which have been sought in the petition under Article 32. However, we leave it open to the Supreme Court of India on its administrative side to take appropriate decisions bearing in mind the needs of the institution for the present and the future and the interest of all stakeholders. The process of decision making would also involve consultation with the Bar. SCAORA, SCBA and BCI would be at liberty to address the issue with their representations on the administrative side”, the Court held.

The Court hence left it open to decide and consider the issue on its administrative side bearing in mind the interest of the stakeholders and disposed of the plea.

Cause Title- Supreme Court Bar Association v. Ministry of Urban Development & Ors.

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