In a dramatic rejig at Supreme Court, Ranjan Gogoi, Chief Justice of India, has shifted the hearing of commercial, corporate, and regulatory cases away from the court of Justice Rohinton Nariman to Justice Arun Mishra's court.
The revamping of the SC roster is a biannual exercise, with the CJI reworking the roster roughly every six months. The roster, as decided by the CJI, details the nature of cases that are to be listed for hearing before specific judges.
As per the latest roster, all matters pertaining to the Company Law, IBC, RBI, SEBI, IRDAI, TRAI, MRTP and Arbitration have been moved from the court of Justice Rohinton Nariman to Justice Arun Mishra's court.
What makes this rejig dramatic is that Justice Rohinton Nariman is widely regarded as a prolific legal mind in adjudicating Company Law and regulatory issues. Moreover, in just the last nine months, benches headed by Justice Nariman have delivered judgments on several complex, big ticket, commercial disputes.
With several teething issues in the implementation and enforcement of IBC — a new law needing clarity — Justice Nariman had laid down clarification on several key issues of the Insolvency Code in the 'Swiss Ribbons' judgment.
In a separate case, Justice Nariman had also laid down the concept of 'maximisation' of returns for creditors in deciding the Binani Cements IBC case. In the Essar Steel case, it was his judgment in the battle between Arcelor and Ruias, that paved the way for Arcelor becoming the leading contender, over the Ruias, to take control and Essar Steel with a Rs 42000 crore bid.
Not just the IBC, Justice Nariman also delivered judgments on key regulatory issues. One of the biggest issues confronting sectors such as power, sugar, shipping was the RBI's 'Feb 12' circular that prescribed a one-day-default mechanism for pushing companies into Insolvency proceedings. Upholding the argument of the affected firms that 'Feb 12' circular was indeed a 'one-size-fits-all-approach', Justice Nariman had quashed the RBI circular.
Justice Rohinton Nariman also heard and decided the Rs 573 crore payment dispute between RCom and Ericsson — a contempt case where he had summoned Anil Ambani himself to the court for two days. This was, interestingly, the same case where orders of Justice Nariman summoning Anil Ambani were doctored to give the impression that Anil Ambani was exempt from appearing before the SC. Two court staff members were, later, investigated and sacked.
Justice Arun Mishra will now take charge of all matters pertaining to the company and regulatory law.
Justice Arun Mishra was in the news lately, as he was made to head a bench, for hearing allegations of a 'conspiracy' to malign the office of the CJI by framing allegations of sexual harassment against CJI Ranjan Gogoi. This bench was constituted by the CJI after there was widespread criticism of how the CJI himself had called for a special hearing to respond to allegations of sexual harassment by a former SC staffer.
Interestingly, in Jan 2018, when Justice Gogoi, along with Justice Chelameshwar, Justice Joseph and Justice Lokur had called for an unprecedented press conference against the then CJI Justice Dipak Misra, it was to protest among other things, the assignment of the politically sensitive case of the death of Judge Loya to a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra.
First Published: IST