SC rues HCs' tendency on summoning officials



New Delhi: Deprecating various High Courts' tendency to summon senior government officials at the drop of a hat, the Supreme Court has counselled them to avoid doing it unless absolutely necessary, saying it would amount to the misuse of judicial power.

Taking note of repeated summons by a division bench of the Allahabad High Court to various senior officials of the Uttar Pradesh government, a bench of justice RV Raveendran and AK Patnaik of the Supreme Court censured the High Courts' tendency to seek personal appearance of senior government officials to attend to "all and sundry matters".

"It is a matter of concern that there is growing trend among a few judges of various High Courts to routinely and frequently require the presence of senior government officers, including those of the level of secretaries, to seek insignificant clarifications," the bench said.

"The court should desist from calling senior officers for all and sundry matters as that would amount to the abuse of judicial power," said the bench, in a recent ruling.

"The senior officers of the government are in-charge of the administration of the state and have their own busy schedules," it added.

"Requiring the presence of senior officers of the government should be as a last resort, in rare and exceptional cases, where such presence is absolutely necessary," the bench cautioned.

Pointing out that the High Court has vast powers under Article 226 of the Constitution, including the power to summon senior government officials to assist the court in administration of justice, the bench however added that the court's real power lies in common man's faith and trust in it.

"The real powers of courts is not in passing decrees and orders, nor in punishing offenders and contemnors, nor in summoning senior officers, but in the trust, faith and confidence of common man in judiciary," the bench said.

"Such trust and confidence should not be frittered away by unnecessary and unwarranted show or exercise of power. Greater the power, greater should be responsibility in exercising such powers," the bench counselled.

Spelling out "well-settled norms and procedure" to summon officials, the bench said that besides summoning contemnors of courts, the High Courts can also seek the presence of officials for their "assistance in understanding complex policy or technical issue."

PTI