Madras HC decides case sans parties; apex court frowns

April 8th, 2009 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Rana Ajit
New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) The Supreme Court has caught the Madras High Court deciding a civil dispute in the absence of both the feuding parties - in fact neither side knew that the case was being resolved on a particular day!

Not quite amused over the high court’s style of working, the apex court has now asked it to decide the dispute - between the Tamil Nadu government and a cement manufacturing firm - after properly hearing both sides on a date slated for the purpose.

The Supreme Court bench of Justice B.N. Agrawal and Justice G.S. Singhvi said this in a verdict released Monday.

The case relates to a bill that the Tirunelveli district collector sent to India Cements Ltd for the use of water from the Tamirabarani river for manufacturing cement in its factory on the bank of the river.

The firm moved the high court challenging the bill, and a single-judge bench of the high court Sep 6, 2006 annulled the state government’s order.

The state government subsequently challenged the order before a division bench of the high court, comprising two judges.

The court’s registry slated the government’s lawsuit for hearing tentatively in the third week of March 2008 on a day to be decided during the week keeping in view the workload of the division bench.

But the division bench on March 18, 2008 took the case out of the weekly list and proceeded to decide on it in the absence of both the parties. The division bench of the high court ruled in favour of the government, quashing its single-judge bench order in favour of the cement company.

The cement factory in turn approached the apex court.

“The writ appeal (lawsuit) filed by the respondents (the state government) against the order of the single judge bench was taken up for hearing on March 18, 2008 from the weekly list of the court and even though none appeared for either of the parties, the division bench allowed the same (the government’s appeal),” the apex court bench noted.

“It is not in dispute that the writ appeal filed by the respondent was not shown in the daily cause list and it was taken up from out of the weekly list without notice to the parties or their counsel and as a result none could represent the parties.

“This being the position, the division bench was not justified in disposing of the appeal,” the apex court ruled.

(Rana Ajit can be contacted at rana.ajit@ians.in)

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