LexTalk World Interviews Mr. Nar Hari Singh. Nar Hari Singh- a first generation lawyer having made his own independent mark and an Advocate-on-Record- Supreme Court of India, who has a distinction of having his litigation in Supreme Court of India, Delhi High Court and various other Tribunals and commissions. His area of interest includes matters relating to civil, constitutional, criminal, consumer and corporate litigation and matters incidental thereto.
Besides this Mr. Singh is emerging as prolific litigator and a versatile lawyer having commendable experience of more than 15 years in various courts/ commissions/
Tribunals in Delhi and across India.
He has been appearing independently and arguing various cases before various courts and tribunals/commissions across India. He has a considerable experience in handling important matters before the Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court.
Host: Tell us about a complex legal issue you worked on. Describe the complexity and tell us how you approached it?
Nar Hari Singh: I had an occasion, recently, to handle issue pertaining to reservation case travelling from state of Maharashtra, commonly referred to as Maratha reservation case. By virtue of successive legislations, the state of Maharashtra had accorded reservation to Maratha community within the state of Maharashtra to the extent of 12 and 13% for the purpose of employment and education, respectively. The legislation was of course challenged before the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay on the ground that the same was exceeding 50% limit propounded by the Constitution bench of Supreme Court in the leading case of Indra Sawhney v. Union of India. Ancillary point involved therein was pertaining to 102nd Constitutional amendment which deals with the power of the state to identify socially and educational backward communities for the purpose of reservation.
Though the Hon’ble High Court had validated the legislation on several grounds one amongst which was the population of Maratha community within the state of Maharashtra, the task before us to defend the legislation in Supreme Court was not less than the Herculean one.
Considering the dictum case of Indra Sawhney, which was delivered by the Constitution bench, it was binding from all four corners to a bench of lesser strength which was hearing the Maratha reservation case (namely three-judge bench).
To overcome the hurdle, we decided to devise a strategy of filing an application for seeking reference of the case to a bench of not less than 11 judges are. From that perspective, it was brought to the notice of the bench that mandal commission, which ultimately form the basis of the case of Indra Sawhney, had conducted its enquiry and prepared report on the basis of census of the year 1935. The mandal commission had considered the caste wise population of the year 1935, in the year 1979. We brought it to the notice of the court that in the year 1935, the Indian population was between 35–40 Crs and the same had increased to double in the year 1979 when the enquiry was conducted. Further, when the report of the commission was upheld in case of Indira Sawhney, the Indian population had already reached 85 Crs. It was this an attempt made by us to show about how inaccurate and inadequate the data of mandal commission was in the present day scenario when the Indian population is around 130 crores. Further, on the point of 102nd constitutional amendment, it was also brought to the notice of the court that considering the federal structure of Indian constitution, powers of state to identify vulnerable castes cannot be taken away by the Centre and the same would have been against the constitutional policy. It was therefore also an attempt made, by relying on the debates of Parliamentary committee, that the intention of the central legislation itself was to bestowed the state with power of identification of backward classes and not to take away the same. However, the attempt was rendered futile from all aspects.
Host: The pandemic saw some courts begin moving towards more remote proceedings and availability. Is this sustainable and a possible way to increase access to justice, in your opinion?
Nar Hari Singh: I access to justice and access to the court, in my opinion, or two different things. While access to court would definitely mean, in general parlance, court at your doorstep. But access to justice mean justice delivered even sitting remotely. This pandemic has affected a lot. We have seen unprecedented times. It has affected every activity of the nation even economy of the nation and so does our legal system was also affected. But thankfully our legal system adopted to the technology and with the installation of softwares and with the help of technology they were able to made access to justice available all the time even in this critical time. We were doing cases online, holding conferences with the clients, senior advocates. You can check case status online, filing can be done online. So access to justice was not interrupted at all, hence, this is sustainable and feasible also. It kept going on. Today’s world is of technology/internet. So we have to be well verse with this. But like everything cannot be perfect, so does here also as there are areas where internet has not reached yet so there would be a problem during this critical time.
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