In the case of Prema Joy & Ors. v John Britto two petitions asking the High Court to set a deadline for the Rent Controller to issue final decisions in a rent control petition.
A division bench of Justices AK Jayasankaran Nambiar and Mohammed Nias CP of the Kerala High Court ruled that a litigant’s case can only be given priority for hearing over and above other cases filed earlier if the litigant applies with real, legitimate justifications that satisfy the court.
The court ruled that cases must be resolved in accordance with seniority, or chronological basis and that any variation from that rule requires a valid and genuine reason. In general, no litigant should be permitted to skip ahead of those litigants who filed cases earlier. A case can only be posted out of turn if the litigant submits an application detailing the justification for an early hearing of the case, and only if the court is satisfied with the justifications provided.
The Court highlighted that requests for taking up cases on a priority basis will only be considered in extraordinary circumstances where justifiable and genuine reasons have been established. The High Court had previously issued an order in the case requesting information from the head of the rent control court regarding how long it would take to decide the relevant rent control petitions. The officer informed the High Court that it currently has a great deal of cases pending. In the current order, the Court assumed that, with a few notable exceptions, a comparable workload pattern prevailed in nearly all of the State’s courts while the case was still pending.
The Court further observed that it regularly receives petitions with similar demands for the swift resolution of cases brought before the rent control court and appeals brought before the rent control appellate authority. It has become standard procedure for this Court to request reports from the subordinate courts and provide instructions to dispose of the proceedings in a time-bound manner in the majority of cases that are presented before this Court with pleas for expedited disposition. The Presiding officers are required to provide a deadline for completion, notwithstanding the fact that many older cases are still pending. This results in injustice for all litigants in the queue as well as for those who are unable to approach this Court for such reliefs.
Therefore, the Court ordered that the rent control appellate body should resolve such applications as quickly as practicable, at any rate within two weeks from the date of moving such motion, provided a party has genuine or valid reasons for their case to be prioritized for hearing.
The judge clarified The aforementioned courts will need to issue brief verbal directions before granting or rejecting the request for an early hearing. The courts will keep in mind that the general practice is to follow the queue, and petitions for taking up cases on a priority basis should only be accepted in rare situations when justifiable and legitimate reasons are convincingly proved.