Nine Judge Benches / The Revival of Ray XXXVI

Nine Judge Bench decisions of Supreme Court possess a pattern. The last one was Justice K.S. Puttaswamy, (2017) 10 SCC 1. It had happened only once before in Indra Sawhney [1992 Supp (3) SCC 217] that, a CJI, despite being on a Nine Judge Bench, did not author a Judgment.

It is of further interest, Indra Sawhney was declared a day before CJI Kania’s retirement; I.R. Coelho, (2007) 2 SCC was declared two days before CJI Sabharwal’s; Justice K S Puttaswamy was declared three days before CJI Khehar’s; Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar, AIR 1967 SC 1 was declared twelve days before CJI Gajendragadkar’s.

In subtle contrast, CJI Sinha in In Re: Sea Customs Act [1878], AIR 1963 SC 1760 and Commercial Tax Officer, Visakhapatnam, AIR 1963 SC 1811; CJI Subba Rao in Superintendent and Legal Remembrancer [State of West Bengal], AIR 1967 SC 997; CJI Ahmadi in Mafatlal Industries Ltd., (1997) 5 SCC 536 and New Delhi Municipal Committee, (1997) 7 SCC 339; CJI Thakur in Jindal Stainless Ltd., 2016 (11) SCALE 1 had some months before retirement.

There are some Nine Judge Bench decisions of which the CJI was not even a part. CJI Venkatachailah sat out Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association, (1993) 4 SCC 441; S.R. Bommai v. Union of India, (1994) 3 SCC 1 and Amratlal Prajivandas, (1994) 5 SCC 54. CJI Anand sat out In Re: Appointment and Transfer of Judges, (1998) 7 SCC 739.

It is not to be forgotten, CJI Ray was years away from retirement when declaring Ahmedabad St. Xavier’s College Society, (1974) 1 SCC 717.

Recently, Hon’ble Justice U.U. Lalit in Sk. Md. Rafique v. Managing Committee, Contai Rahamania High Madrasah, [Civil Appeal No. 5808 of 2017] quoted CJI Ray’s Judgment.

Educational institutions are temples of learning. The virtues of human intelligence are mastered and harmonized by education. Where there is complete harmony between the teacher and the taught, where the teacher imparts and the student receives, where there is complete dedication of the teacher and the taught in learning, where there is discipline between the teacher and the taught, where both are worshippers of learning, no discord or challenge will arise. An educational institution runs smoothly when the teacher and the taught are engaged in the common ideal of pursuit of knowledge. It is, therefore, manifest that the appointment of teachers is an important part in educational institutions. The qualifications and the character of the teachers are really important. The minority institutions have the right to administer institutions. This right implies the obligation and duty of the minority institutions to render the very best to the students. In the right of administration, checks and balances in the shape of regulatory measures are required to ensure the appointment of good teachers and their conditions of service. The right to administer is to be tempered with regulatory measures to facilitate smooth administration. The best administration will reveal no trace or colour of minority. A minority institution should shine in exemplary eclectism in the administration of the institution. The best compliment that can be paid to a minority institution is that it does not rest on or proclaim its minority character.

Regulations which will serve the interests of the students, regulations which will serve the interests of the teachers are of paramount importance in good administration. Regulations in the interest of efficiency of teachers, discipline and fairness in administration are necessary for preserving harmony among affiliated institutions.

Education should be a great cohesive force in developing integrity of the nation. Education develops the ethos of the nation. Regulations are, therefore, necessary to see that there are no divisive or disintegrating forces in administration.

CJI Bobde shall, very soon, achieve the distinction of declaring on Nine Judge Bench Sabarimala [Review Petition (Civil) No. 3358 of 2018 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 373 of 2006], years away from retirement. We hope and pray, CJI Bobde’s declaration too is quoted decades after.