MUMBAI: A Supreme Court bench, headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) P Sathasivam, on Monday requested a two-judge bench, headed by Justice Gyan Sudha Misra, not to hear a matter listed before it for a day after lawyers representing the City and Industrial Development Corporation (Cidco) complained of forum-hunting and sought de-tagging of its case.
The electronic board scroll flashed that "item 11" in court number 10 will not be heard and by evening, the SC registry placed the matter on Tuesday's board before a different bench of Justice AK Patnaik and Justice F M I Kalifulla in court number five at serial number 23. Forum-hunting refers to the search for an adjudicating body, in this case a bench, of one's choice.
The case involves an appeal against a Bombay HC order which set aside a 2011 decision by Cidco to cancel its 2008 allotment of 12 acres of land in Seawoods, Navi Mumbai, to Metropolis Hotels, a part of the group company led by Pune developer Avinash Bhosale.
The HC had upheld the allotment to Metropolis Hotels, which won the bid and later sold part of the plot to Shishir Realty for Rs 260 crore with a Rs 1.38 crore transfer fee to Cidco. The land meant for a hotel was changed for commercial and residential use.
Cidco filed a special leave petition (SLP) against the HC judgment, but it has yet to be numbered and its paper book has to clear administrative queries from the SC registry.
On Monday, Cidco's counsel Dushyant Dave and Ajit Bhasme informed the SC that there seems to be a modus operandi at forum-hunting with the CJI becoming an "unwitting party" though he acted in good faith. Senior counsel Harish Salve supported his submission. The CJI said the matter would be looked into.
Last week, a lawyer for Shishir Realty told the Cidco lawyer that its SLP would be heard along with a plea filed by H K Sudhakara—not a party in the Cidco case in HC—seeking permission to file an SLP in the matter, by a bench headed by Justice Misra on March 24. In January, Sudhakara's plea, mentioned by senior counsel V K Bali, was clubbed with a civil contempt case emanating from an unrelated UP case ruling before Justice Misra's bench. Bali later withdrew the contempt.
A day before the Holi holiday, senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi of Shishir Realty, sought the CJI bench and got the Cidco SLP tagged with Sudhakara's plea before Justice Misra's bench with no notice.