Was Chandrachud’s dissent in the Bhima Koregaon case initially a unanimous verdict?

29 September 2018
On 28 September, a majority judgment written by AM Khanwilkar, on behalf of himself and Dipak Misra, dismissed the Bhima Koregaon petition. But until the previous evening, the Supreme Court’s website indicated that there would be only one judgment in the case—by the dissenting judge, DY Chandrachud.
Ashok Dutta/Hindustan Times/Getty Images
On 28 September, a majority judgment written by AM Khanwilkar, on behalf of himself and Dipak Misra, dismissed the Bhima Koregaon petition. But until the previous evening, the Supreme Court’s website indicated that there would be only one judgment in the case—by the dissenting judge, DY Chandrachud.
Ashok Dutta/Hindustan Times/Getty Images

On 28 September, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court pronounced its verdict on a writ petition challenging the arrest of five activists, writers and lawyers purportedly in relation to the violence at Bhima Koregaon earlier this year. The petition sought their release from custody and asked for the case to be handed over to a court-monitored Special Investigation Team. A majority judgment written by AM Khanwilkar, on behalf of himself and the chief justice, Dipak Misra, dismissed the petition. But until the evening of 27 September, the Supreme Court’s website indicated that there would be only one judgment in the case—by the dissenting judge, DY Chandrachud.

Every day, the Supreme Court registry uploads cause lists—the cases each bench will hear—of the following day on its website. The lists mention the judges who will hear each case, the scheduled time of the hearing and the judges who will be pronouncing verdicts.

In the case of the Bhima Koregaon petition, however, the cause list as of the evening of 27 September—a screenshot has been reproduced below—mentioned only one judgment, to be pronounced by Chandrachud. On the morning of the hearing, the registry uploaded a notice on its website clarifying that the “pronouncement of judgment by Hon’ble Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud may be read as to be pronounced by ‘Hon’ble A.M. Khanwilkar and Hon’ble D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ.’”

Going by convention, the Supreme Court registry ought to have mentioned Khanwilkar’s name along with Chandrachud’s in the cause list for the Bhima Koregaon case. For instance, the listing for the petition challenging the prohibition of women’s entry to the Sabarimala temple, also heard in the chief justice’s court on 28 September, noted, “Judgment by: Hon. The Chief Justice, Hon. Mr. Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Hon. Dr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Hon. Ms. Justice Indu Malhotra.” The case was heard by a bench of five judges, four of whom pronounced judgments. (Khanwilkar was the fifth judge.) Although the list did not clarify which judges would be concurring or dissenting—Malhotra’s judgement was a dissent—all four judges were mentioned.

Arshu John is an assistant web editor at The Caravan. He was previously an advocate practicing criminal law in Delhi.

Keywords: Prashant Bhushan judiciary Supreme Court Dipak Misra AM Khanwilkar Bhima Koregaon DY Chandrachud Abhishek Manu Singhvi
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