Pronouncement of judgements by successor judge 'invalid': HC



New Delhi: In a significant ruling, the Delhi High Court has said the law does not permit a judge to merely "announce" judgements scripted by his predecessor, who has lost jurisdiction over the case and such pronouncement is "invalid”.

Citing legal provisions, a bench of justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Manmohan Singh said, "It (section 326 of CrPC) does not empower the successor magistrate to merely 'announce' a 'judgement' written by the predecessor judge or magistrate."

The provision "only enables a successor judge or magistrate to act on evidence recorded by the predecessor judge or magistrate and then proceed to pronounce the judgement (on his own)," the bench said.

Terming pronouncements of judgements in two criminal cases by successor judge as "invalid", the court set them aside and remanded the matters to "concerned additional sessions judge having jurisdiction for concluding the trial and hearing arguments and thereafter pronouncing judgements thereon."

Jitender alias Kalle, who was tried in two separate murder cases registered with Keshav Puram and Mukherjee Nagar police stations in 1999, had been awarded life imprisonment in the matters with Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau pronouncing orders on sentences respectively on March 17 and 20 in two cases.

It was Lau's predecessor Additional Sessions Judge Bharat Parashar, who had reserved and dictated the judgements in both the cases before his transfer as a joint registrar to the Delhi High Court on February 11, 2010.

The "judgements", dictated and signed by ASJ Parashar who had heard the arguments in trials, were "announced" by the successor judge after his transfer to high court. Citing a Supreme Court judgement, the bench said, "It is apparent that the pronouncement of a judgement is a judicial act which must be performed in a judicial way."

"The Supreme Court also stressed that the pronouncement of a judgement must be an expression of the mind of the court at the time of delivery. It further observed that the final operative act is that which is formally declared in open court with the intention of making it the operative decision of the court. That is what constitutes the judgement.”

"Importantly the Supreme Court also observed that up to the point of pronouncement, judges have the right to change their minds and therefore it follows that the judge who delivered the judgement or causes it to be delivered by a fellow judge, must be in existence as a member of the court at the moment of delivery so that he can, if necessary, stop delivery and say that he has changed his mind," said the court in its 32-page judgement.

It discussed the facts of the cases saying erstwhile ASJ Parashar "had ceased to be an ASJ" with effect from February 11, 2010 after his transfer as a joint registrar and hence, he lacked "jurisdiction" over the matters.

The bench rejected the plea that there was a 'note' of the high court which enables successor "judicial officers to pronounce judgements/orders within a period of 2/3 weeks".

"The mere fact that there is a note such as note 2 in the order dated February 8, 2010 would not enable us to detract from the statutory provisions which do not permit the pronouncement of a judgement by a successor judge which have been written and signed by the predecessor and that, too, after the predecessor ceased to have jurisdiction over the said case," it said.

It added the pronouncements of verdicts by a successor judge "were not judgements in law”.

PTI