As reported earlier, in the last week of April, Justice Kathawalla was hearing cases on April 23 till 11 pm. And on April 25 till midnight.
Friday, the last working day for Bombay High Court, before it closed for summer vacation. Even when the Gothic precincts of the High Court fell silent and courtrooms were closed, lights were still on in Courtroom No. 20, on the first floor. Lawyers, with their case briefs, waited their turn as Justice S J Kathawalla, determined to hear all the matters listed on his board, worked well past the official hours into the first day of vacation on Saturday, winding up only at about 3:30 am.
Unprecedented, the judge was back in his courtroom at 10:30 am Saturday, finally winding up at 9:30 pm. As reported earlier, in the last week of April, Justice Kathawalla was hearing cases on April 23 till 11 pm. And on April 25 till midnight. Eight staff members attached to the judge’s chamber stayed back, playing their part in justice delivery. Justice Kathawalla heard matters listed on the supplementary board starting from serial number 901.
Advocate Aseem Naphade, who was present in the court with his senior, Birendra Saraf, said, “Our matter was at serial number 1,016 and it was heard till 3 am. There were seven cases which were still left to be heard after us. All his (Justice Kathawalla) staff, lawyers, litigants and his interns were waiting in the court.” Another lawyer present in the court said that Justice Kathawalla had informed everyone in the court beforehand that he will be hearing matters till serial number 9,022.
The court was packed with lawyers and litigants as there were lot of pending matters to be heard. Advocate Mayur Khandeparkar said, “Our case was the third last matter and it was heard till 3:15am. The court was hearing most of the urgent ad-interim matters.” The staff attached to Justice Kathawalla’s chamber have devised a way to work in shifts. Most of them, living in far flung suburbs, leave by 9-9.30 pm and are replaced by those living close by.
While they return to work by 10 am the next morning, the ones who work late take the daytime to rest. Senior lawyer Pravin Samdani said that his matter was the last to be heard and until then, the court was still packed. “All his staff and many others were waiting in neighbouring court for him to finish the matters,” Samdani said. Retired High Court, Official KPP Nair, who had worked with Kathawalla for seven years as his secretary, said, “While I was working with him, he used to sit in the court till 8:30 to 9 pm. Last year, at one instance, he was deciding a matter 11 pm.”
Former Bombay High Court Justice VM Kanade said, “Good, someone is working hard for the system. It usually happens that people rush to the court in the last week before the vacation. It should be appreciated that judges are working hard. But he (Justice Kathawalla) should also take care of his health.”