Recently, Supreme Court while dealing a case was particularly impressed by the presentation in written submission made by the counsel for one of the parties. Advocate Sumeer Sodhi, who was representing the State of Chhattisgarh, in a criminal appeal moved by the accused in a murder case. One aspect of Mr Sodhi's written submission that particularly pleased the bench was a "convenience note" that he attached for quick reference of the Judges. The note which provided details of the FIR, accused person, history of proceedings and also the legal submission of the proceedings all in a concise and systematic tabular format caught the eyes of the Judges. The Bench led by Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and also comprising of Justices Vineet Saran and Ravindra Bhat not only lauded the counsel for his "convenience note", but also were quick in suggesting the use of such note by all the Standing Counsels for State as a standard format.
CONVINIENCE NOTE BE USED AS STANDARD FORMAT BY STATE COUNSELS
The Supreme Court was recently hearing an appeal moved by the accused persons in a murder case. More than the facts of the case, the one thing which caught the attention of the Hon'ble Judges was a "convenience note" contained in the written submission of Advocate Sumeer Sodhi, appearing for the State of Chhattisgarh as respondent. The note briefly provided the details of the FIR in the case, the accused persons, history of proceedings and also the legal submission of the proceedings in lower courts, all in a concise and systematic tabular manner.
When such vast information of a case is usually annexed, it fills a plethora of pages, increasing the time and efforts required by a Judge to read and understand it. However, when this information was contained so precisely and in an understandable manner in a note not more than a couple of pages long, it contented the Judges compelling them to admire Mr. Sodhi for making it. The Bench led by Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and also comprising of Justices Vineet Saran and Ravindra Bhat also annexed the "convenience note" in their Order substituting it for the vast information, thereby abridging the otherwise long Order.
The Judges also suggested that a "convenience note" like this can be used as a standard format by all the standing Counsels representing States in their respective cases. In the Order dated December 8, 2020, the Bench directed the Registry to circulate copies of it to all the Standing Counsels, while mentioning how the Note annexed in it is "an illustration of how a case can be presented on behalf of the State." Use of such concise notes would indeed attenuate the efforts required by Judges in reading and processing information on a micro level, thereby increasing the efficiency of Courts on a macro level.
Presentation, both oral and written, in a Court of law is one key aspect that not only determines the fate of parties in a case, but is also a make or break factor in a lawyer's career. The renowned magazine editor and public figure Lilly Walters once quoted, "The success of your presentation will be judged by the knowledge you send by what the listener receives." By saying this, she emphasized the fact that it is ultimately the information grabbed by the listener or the reader that makes the difference, and not the plenitude of it thrown by the presenter.
It is a common observation made by the laymen while going legal documents or files that even the most simplest of information is presented in a flowery and verbose manner, making it an arduous task to read even a page of it. While most of the times it is rightfully considered a 'skill' of the lawyer to draft such complex but beautifully organised drafts, on other instances, it could be the lack of understanding of the lawyer, regarding his facts or laws that disables him from imparting his knowledge with clarity. Though the Judges and lawyers are habitually used to reading such drafts, they would admittedly never refuse to appreciate a more sorted and clarified form of it. The infamous theoretical physicist Albert Einstein had summarized this by saying, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" (though it was made in an entirely different context, it fits more aptly here!).
ABOUT THE CASE
The present case Kaushal Verma and others v. State of Chhattisgarh[i] is a criminal appeal preferred by the accused, arising from a Special Leave Petition (SLP) he filed in 2015. In trial court, out of the twenty-five to thirty accused charged for Murder under section 302 of IPC (other charges included those under Sections 146 (Rioting), 148, 307, and 456), seventeen were convicted under Sections 147, 148, 450, 323, 302, and 149.
The seventeen accused later preferred two separate appeals before the High Court, which allowed only one of the appeals (filed solely by one convict) on ground of the convicted being a juvenile, while rejecting the second appeal preferred by the remaining sixteen convicts. Out of the sixteen, 12 convicts further filed two separate SLPs before the Supreme Court, one of which was rejected, and the present appellant (accused/convicted) being one of the petitioners in it. In the other SLP filed separately by 9 convicts, 4 were acquitted by the Supreme Court.
(It might amuse the readers to know that the Author herein had solely relied on the 'convenience note' to bring to them the above-mentioned piece of information!)
The present appeal was preferred by the convicts Kaushal Verma, Gaya Ram Verma and Omkar Prasad on the ground that their case stood on similar footing as that of the other four accused whose appeals were allowed by the Supreme Court vide its judgment in the aforesaid SLP preferred by them. The appellants were represented by Advocate Anshuman Shrivastava, while Advocate Sumeer Sodhi represented the State of Chhattisgarh.
Even though the appeal preferred was allowed by the Apex Court, the three judge's bench lauded Mr. Sodhi for the "convenience note" attached in the written submission, while observing that it was with his assistance that they could go through the record of the case. Several courts have remarked on several instances that complexity in presentation of court documents and submission, though necessary due requirement by various laws and also the need to showcase as much details as possible, it at times creates difficulty for judicial officers in processing a case expeditiously. There are certain requisites while giving a written submission which only have historic roots or do not have any relevance today. However, such small innovations will surely transform 'practices' into 'better practices' and aid courts in more efficient functioning.
[i] CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.843 OF 2020.