Don't summon top officials unncessarily, SC tells judges
New Delhi: Judges should not have inflated
ego and flaunt their powers unnecessarily by summoning high-
ranking officials like Chief Secretaries or Principal
Secretaries as otherwise it would eventually lead to the
collapse of the country's democratic system, the Supreme Court
observed on Thursday.
A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha
Mishra in an order deprecated the practice of high courts
frequently summoning high-ranking officials for non-compliance
of its directions and said such a course should be resorted to
only in extreme cases.
"Judges should not have any ego problems. In
particular, members of the higher judiciary (High Court and
Supreme Court) should have great modesty and humility. This is
because the higher one moves in the hierarchy the greater
become his powers.
"Hence, unless one has modesty and humility, he may
play havoc. High Court Judges have tremendous powers, but the
beauty lies in not exercising those powers except where
absolutely necessary. Flaunting these powers unnecessarily
only brings the judiciary into disrepute. Some of the greatest
Judges have been the most modest, e.g., Justice Holmes, Judge
Learned Hand, Justice Brandeis, Justice Cardozo, Lord Atkins,
Lord Denning, Justice Venkatachaliah, etc," the bench said.
The apex court passed the ruling while quashing an
Allahabad High Court order summoning Principal Secretary,
Finance along with the Principal Secretary, Medical & Health,
U.P. Government for alleged non compliance of its directions
in a case filed by the U P Malaria Nirikshak Sangh.
According to the bench it is only in some extreme case
where the high court is convinced that deliberately the order
of the court has been ignored in a spirit of defiance that it
may summon the official to explain why the order of the court
has not been complied with.
"The system functions on mutual respect between the
judiciary and the executive. While the judiciary must respect
the executive, at the same time, the executive must also
respect the judiciary. If we do not respect each other, the
system will collapse," the bench said.
The apex court said it was coming across many orders
where high court judges are summoning executive officials
routinely, casually, and sometimes even at the drop of a hat
despite the apex court in the earlier Turabali Gulamhussain
Hirani vs Gujarat had asked courts to desist from such
"We are constrained to make these observations because
we are repeatedly coming across a large number of cases where
such orders summoning high officials are being passed by the
High Courts and often it is only for the ego satisfaction of
the learned judge.
"At the same time, we make it clear that we have also
come across cases where orders of the courts are deliberately
ignored by government officials which is not proper.
"Democracy and the rule of law requires that the
orders of the Courts should be complied with by the executive
authorities promptly and with due diligence. If the executive
authorities are dissatisfied with a High Court order, they may
appeal against that order to the Supreme court but it is not
proper to ignore such orders," the apex court said.
The bench said in the present case the high court was
not justified in summoning the officials and hence quashed the
The apex court also asked its registry to circulate
the copies of its orders to the Registrars of all the
high courts, Union Cabinet Secretary, Union of India, as well
as all Chief Secretaries of all States/Union Territories.