Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Editorial

SC Orders All Courts Not To Mention Caste, Religion Of Litigants In Case Papers

January 29, 2024 08:05 PM

By Sanjeev Sirohi
While taking the most historic right step and also the most commendable right initiative in the right direction, we see that the Supreme Court which is the highest court of India in a most learned, landmark, logical, laudable and latest judgment titled Shama Sharma vs Kishan Kumar in Transfer Petition (Civil) No. 1957 of 2023 in the exercise of its civil original jurisdiction that was pronounced as recently as on January 10, 2024 has minced just no words to hold most commendably in no uncertain terms that all the courts must stop mentioning caste, religion of litigants in case papers.

It is most heartening to note that the Supreme Court has passed a general order directing its Registry, all the High Courts and so also all the Subordinate Courts to stop the pernicious practice of mentioning the caste or religion of litigants in case papers. It would be vital to note that a Bench of Apex Court comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Hima Kohli and Hon’ble Mr Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah while deprecating most strongly the pernicious practice of caste or religion of litigants in caste papers observed unequivocally that the practice should be shunned and stopped immediately. The Apex Court was astonished to observe that the caste of both the parties to the dispute that is the husband and the wife had been most specifically mentioned in the memo of the parties.

At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by a Bench of Apex Court comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Hima Kohli and Hon’ble Mr Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “The petitioner-wife has filed the present petition under Section 25 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 seeking transfer of a petition for restitution of conjugal rights filed by the respondent-husband under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, bearing CM No. 136 of 2023, titled “Kishan Kumar Vs. Shama Sharma” pending before the Principal Judge, Family Court, Sri Ganga Nagar, Rajasthan to a Court of competent jurisdiction at Faridkot, Punjab.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “On 29th November, 2023 this Court had noted that none has entered appearance on behalf of the respondent-husband. In view of the statement made by learned counsel for the petitioner-wife that the parties were referred to mediation, but could not arrive at a settlement, it was deemed appropriate to await the presence of the respondent-husband. We had also directed that both the parties should appear virtually on the next date of hearing.”

As we see, the Bench then discloses in para 3 that, “Learned counsel for the petitioner-wife states that he has given a written intimation of the order passed on 29th November, 2023 to the respondent-husband through speed post as well as whatsapp, but he has not responded.”

It is worth noting that the Bench points out in para 4 that, “None is present on behalf of the respondent-husband even today.”

As a corollary, the Bench then mandates and directs in para 5 that, “In view of the above, we deem it appropriate to allow the petition and direct transfer of the petition bearing CM No. 136 of 2023, titled “Kishan Kumar Vs. Shama Sharma” pending before the Principal Judge, Family Court, Sri Ganga Nagar, Rajasthan to a Court of competent jurisdiction at Faridkot, Punjab.”

Further, the Bench also directs in para 6 that, “The records of the case be transferred forthwith to the transferee Court.”

Be it noted, the Bench notes and directs in para 7 that, “Further, liberty is granted to the respondent-husband to move an appropriate application before the transferee Court for permission to participate in the proceedings virtually. If such a request is made, the transferee Court may grant such permission and direct the personal presence of the respondent-husband only when it is absolutely necessary. Further, if examination of outstation witnesses is required and a request is made for recording the evidence through a Court Commissioner, the transferee Court shall consider the same and pass appropriate orders.”

What’s more, the Bench then further directs in para 8 that, “The Transfer petition is allowed.”

In addition, the Bench then also directs in para 9 that, “Pending applications are disposed of.”

Quite significantly, we see that the Bench then propounds in para 10 that, “Before parting with this matter, we have noted with surprise that the caste of both the parties has been mentioned in the memo of parties, besides their other details. Learned counsel for the petitioner submits that if the memo of parties as filed before the courts below is changed in any manner, the Registry raises an objection and in the present case as the caste of both the parties was mentioned before the court below, he had no option but to mention their caste in the Transfer Petition.”

Most significantly, most remarkably and so also most sagaciously, we then observe that the Bench hastens to add in para 11 propounding brilliantly that, “We see no reason for mentioning the caste/religion of any litigant either before this Court or the courts below. Such a practice is to be shunned and must be ceased forthwith. It is therefore deemed appropriate to pass a general order directing that henceforth the caste or religion of parties shall not be mentioned in the memo of parties of a petition/proceeding filed before this Court, irrespective of whether any such details have been furnished before the courts below. A direction is also issued to all the High Courts to ensure that the caste/religion of a litigant does not appear in the memo of parties in any petition/suit/proceeding filed before the High Court or the Subordinate Courts under their respective jurisdictions.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by mandating and directing in para 12 that, “The above directions shall be brought to the notice of the members of the Bar as well as the Registry for immediate compliance. A copy of this order shall be placed before the Registrar concerned for perusal and for circulation to the Registrar Generals of all the High Courts for strict compliance.”

In a nutshell, we thus see very clearly that the Bench of Apex Court comprising of Hon’ble Ms Justice Hima Kohli and so also Hon’ble Mr Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah have left no stone unturned in making it indubitably clear that all the courts must definitely now stop mentioning the caste, religion of litigants in case papers. It is high time and the Registry must definitely from now onwards pay heed to what the Apex Court has directed so very clearly, cogently and convincingly in this leading case which must be implemented in all the courts most strictly! There can definitely be just no gainsaying that the earlier this is done in all the courts, the better it shall be! There can definitely be just no denying or disputing it!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col (Retd) BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.

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