Bombay HC judge for transparency, disallows anything submitted in sealed cover
Justice G S Patel, who is heading the bench hearing the case, said every document shown to him could be seen by all parties and even the press. He added this was the only method to ensure “an open and transparent decision-making process”Updated: Sep 22, 2020, 13:23 IST
The Bombay high court last week refused to allow a firm to submit some additional documents related to a commercial arbitration case in sealed covers to prevent the press from accessing them, saying the media have a purpose and it cannot curtail the rights of the free press.
Justice G S Patel, who is heading the bench hearing the case, said every document shown to him could be seen by all parties and even the press. He added this was the only method to ensure “an open and transparent decision-making process.”
The bench was hearing a bunch of commercial arbitration petitions filed against Anugarh Stock & Broking Pvt Ltd. The petitioners have accused the company of causing them financial and monetary loss and of illegal and unauthorised trades.
The firm filed an affidavit through advocate Rohaan Cama in response to the petitions about its assets, their value, and details of other holdings and bank accounts. Cama informed the bench that his client had submitted additional material in a sealed covers rather than putting them in the affidavit as they feared the press could access it.
Patel said there will never be a question “of anything being done in a sealed cover”. He added: “Anything that I can see, all parties before me are entitled to see. That is all there is to it. This is the only method that I know of to ensure an open and transparent decision-making process. Those details will, therefore, need to be set on affidavit. I am also making it clear that it is not possible for any party to unilaterally decide to put material into a sealed cover.”
Patel said he could not care less in response to Cama’s apprehension about the material finding its way into the press. “That is not my concern. The fourth estate will do its job and I will do mine. I decide matters before me on the basis of the papers filed in court, not newspapers delivered to my doorstep. The press exists for a reason. It has a purpose, one that it serves. I cannot and will not curtail the rights of the free press at the instance of this or that party. I refuse to proceed on the basis that the press is always irresponsible. There will be no gag orders here.”
Patel said that it was up to Anugarh to submit details of the material in the sealed cover in an affidavit and serve it on all petitioners or face the consequences and posted the petitions for hearing on October 5.
Around 65 petitions have accused Anugrah of luring investors, taking large sums, effecting some trades but also carrying out unauthorised and illicit transactions and causing the petitioners losses. They have sought recovery of their funds.