Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi arriving; lawyers coming out after the hearing, on Thursday morning. (Express Photo | Shekhar Yadav)
NEW DELHI: It all started around 8 pm on Wednesday, when top Congress leaders decided to seek legal recourse and challenge Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala’s decision to invite the BJP to form the government in the state. Before Chief Minister Yeddyurappa’s swearing-in at 9 am on Thursday, the Supreme Court opened its doors at 1.45 am to hear the Congress-JD(S) petition. This was only the third occasion in the top court’s history when it had agreed to hear a matter past midnight, and the first instance when it had opened its doors to hear a matter related to government formation.
The Supreme Court registry opened after hours to admit the petition, and secretary general Ravinder Maithani went to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra’s residence for instructions. By 1.15 am, the crowd outside the CJI’s residence had begun moving to the Supreme Court. All eyes were on court number six, which was a beehive of activity as staff specially called in the middle of the night made arrangements for the hearing.
Two court masters were brought in to facilitate the proceedings. Both were not new to post-midnight proceedings; they were present in July 2015, when, at 3 am, the court had heard a final plea seeking a stay on the execution of Yakub Memon. Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Congress, was present, as was Attorney General KK Venugopal, for Vala and the Centre. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appeared for three MLAs who saw the news on TV and asked him to appear in court, and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta was also there.
Singhvi, who took the longest time to put forth his points, remained sharp throughout the hearing. On the other hand, the octogenarian Venugopal was fatigued, having been woken up from his sleep.“Sorry, we woke you up. This is not a case that deserves a midnight hearing,” Rohatgi was heard saying several times during the course of the night. “Are heavens falling if the swearing-in takes place?” he said repeatedly. “Is this Yakub Memon situation? It should have never been heard at midnight,” Rohatgi said.
Exhaustion from working at the unearthly hour was visible on almost every face. Between sips of hot tea, the judges too battled fatigue to pay attention to the arguments being made. The hearing ended at 5.30 am with the decision that the swearing-in would be subject to the outcome of the case. The crowd that had entered the court in the dead of the night emerged to the first rays of the sun on Thursday.