SC rues HCs'' tendency to summon officials at the drop of a hat

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New Delhi, Jan 12 (PTI) Deprecating various highcourts'' tendency to summon senior government officials at thedrop of a hat, the Supreme Court has counselled them to avoiddoing it unless absolutely necessary, saying it would amountto the misuse of judicial power.

Taking note of repeated summons by a division bench ofthe Allahabad High Court to various senior officials of theUttar Pradsh government, a bench of justice R V Raveendran andA K Patnaik of the Supreme Court censured the high courts''tendency to seek personal appearance of senior governmentofficials to attend to "all and sundry matters".

"It is a matter of concern that there is growing trendamong a few judges of various high courts to routinely andfrequently require the presence of senior government officers,including those of the level of secretaries, to seekinsignificant clarifications," the bench said.

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

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

"Requiring the presence of senior officers of thegovernment should be as a last resort, in rare and exceptionalcases, where such presence is absolutely necessary," the benchcautioned.

Pointing out that the high court has vast powers underArticle 226 of the Constitution, including the power to summonsenior government officials to assist the court inadministration of justice, the bench however, added, that thecourt''s real power lies in common man''s faith and trust in it.

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

"Such trust and confidence should not be fritteredaway by unnecessary and unwarranted show or exercise of power.

Greater the power, greater should be responsibility inexercising such powers," the bench counselled.

Spelling out "well-settled norms and procedure" tosummon officials, the bench said that besides summoningcontemnors of courts, the high courts can also seek thepresence of officials for their "assistance in understandingcomplex policy or technical issue." .

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