Is Number 13 indeed inauspicious? The Supreme Court will now decide this interesting but unusual issue.
Admitting a petition against the superstitious practice in the Kerala High Court at Kochi of not having any Court Number 13, a Bench headed by Chief Justice YK Sabharwal asked the High Court not to encourage superstition.
"Superstition should not be encouraged by courts. You should tell the High Court to set it right," the Bench told senior counsel TL Vishwanath Iyer, who represented the High Court before it.
The Bench said if one were to follow 'vaastu' and other such things, all the major buildings would have to be altered. "We will not have 13, Akbar Road," it observed.
The controversy is about the new building of the Kerala High Court at Kochi, which was inaugurated by the CJI himself on February 11 this year.
Petitioner Chandramohan alleged that due to superstitious beliefs, the High Court did not assign Number 13 to any of its courtrooms and after the Court Number 12 there was Court Number 14.
Previously Court Number 13 was there in the old building that is, Ram Mohan Palace where it functioned since its inception till February 10 this year but it was re-numbered as Court Number 12-A in 1995. The High Court avoided his number in the new building too.
Chandramohan has challenged before the apex court the February 14 order of the Kerala High Court, which dismissed his petition against the superstitious practice. The High Court had also imposed a cost of Rs 10,000 for having embarked on "a frivolous misadventure to malign/embarrass" the High Court and abusing the process of law.
Petitioner's counsel K Rajeev contended that following the superstitious practice of avoiding Number 13, the fear of which originated from Christianity, was against secularism - a basic feature of the Constitution.
Interestingly, in its counter affidavit filed in the apex court, the High Court Registrar General claimed, "whether there should be a Court Hall bearing Number 13 is not a matter concerning the rights of any member of the public".
The Registrar General sought dismissal of the petition saying absence of Court Number 13 "does not aggrieve any rights - legal or otherwise of the petitioner or any member of the public justifying the filing of a public interest litigation."
He further contended that the decision of allocating Court Numbers was purely administrative in nature, which was taken on the basis of recommendation of a committee of Judges headed by the High Court Chief Justice. He also denied that the decision was based on religious ground or any extraneous reasons.