On a Monday morning at 10:45 am, the scene outside the Bombay High Court seems like any other day before the court partially closes for summer break. The court cat lounges at a highly secured entrance and blinks sluggishly as she watches lawyers and litigants gliding in and out of her line of vision. While some lawyers amble along as they fall into a reverie about the long-awaited vacation, others scurry to court with their black ‘capes’ swiftly flowing behind them. Young advocates rummage through heavily marked sheaves of papers as they efficiently brief an even faster pacing senior advocate up the spiral staircase. Dreamy-eyed interns, mesmerized by the gothic architecture and the general hustle-bustle are almost breathless as they slice through the crowd trying to keep up with the long strides of lawyers. Litigants are seen waiting in and out of court, some more nervous than the others. For a few, their cases have been decided and they are on the brink of their holiday, while others anticipate a long and tiresome day in court. Then of course there are the usual predictions (which is unarguably an indispensable skill to have) about whether “the matter will reach”, meaning will the judge hear the case listed at 1002 between 11 am and 5pm, excluding an hour long lunch break.
But nobody could have anticipated that the loaded list of cases hanging outside court room number 20 would all be heard that day. The Honourable Justice Sharukh Kathawala, known for his impartial judgments and compassion for litigants, tirelessly decided cases until midnight, with a 20-minute break during the entire day. The following week witnessed an unprecedented event where over 150 cases a day were decided at lightning speed until 3:30 am. The massive backlog of cases pending before the courts has marred the Indian legal system and its tightly woven community for too long, often maligning it as inefficient and hopeless. For this reason, potential litigants are disheartened and often discouraged from resorting to litigation, even though their claim may have a very good chance at success. The nation was pleasantly woken up from a depressing slumber at 3:30 am as Justice Kathawala waved the shining beacon of hope we had long desired. Those who were unprepared with their arguments or sauntered off prematurely for their holiday might consider this historic effort to be extreme and even unnecessary. But for most litigants, this zealous act was an unexpected and pleasant surprise that restored their faith in the Indian legal system, gifting them and us a 3am judge!